Cardiff University | Prifysgol Caerdydd ORCA
Online Research @ Cardiff 
WelshClear Cookie - decide language by browser settings

Defeating stochasticity: coalescence timescales of massive black holes in galaxy mergers

Nasim, Imran, Read, Justin, Gualandris, Alessia, Dehnen, Walter, Delorme, Maxime and Antonini, Fabio ORCID: 2020. Defeating stochasticity: coalescence timescales of massive black holes in galaxy mergers. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 497 (1) , pp. 739-746. 10.1093/mnras/staa1896

[thumbnail of Binary_dynamics_project__Copy_.pdf]
PDF - Accepted Post-Print Version
Download (825kB) | Preview


The coalescence of massive black hole binaries (BHBs) in galactic mergers is the primary source of gravitational waves (GWs) at low frequencies. Current estimates of GW detection rates for the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna and the Pulsar Timing Array vary by three orders of magnitude. To understand this variation, we simulate the merger of equal-mass, eccentric, galaxy pairs with central massive black holes and shallow inner density cusps. We model the formation and hardening of a central BHB using the Fast Multiple Method as a force solver, which features a O(N) scaling with the number N of particles and obtains results equivalent to direct-summation simulations. At N ∼ 5 × 105, typical for contemporary studies, the eccentricity of the BHBs can vary significantly for different random realisations of the same initial condition, resulting in a substantial variation of the merger timescale. This scatter owes to the stochasticity of stellar encounters with the BHB and decreases with increasing N. We estimate that N ∼ 107 within the stellar half-light radius suffices to reduce the scatter in the merger timescale to ∼10%. Our results suggest that at least some of the uncertainty in low-frequency GW rates owes to insufficient numerical resolution.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Physics and Astronomy
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0035-8711
Funders: STFC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 20 July 2020
Date of Acceptance: 26 June 2020
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2023 20:18

Citation Data

Cited 11 times in Scopus. View in Scopus. Powered By Scopus® Data

Actions (repository staff only)

Edit Item Edit Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics