Evidence for hierarchical black hole mergers in the second LIGO–Virgo gravitational wave catalog

Kimball, C. et al. (2021) Evidence for hierarchical black hole mergers in the second LIGO–Virgo gravitational wave catalog. Astrophysical Journal Letters, 915(2), L35. (doi: 10.3847/2041-8213/ac0aef)

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We study the population properties of merging binary black holes in the second LIGO–Virgo Gravitational-Wave Transient Catalog assuming they were all formed dynamically in gravitationally bound clusters. Using a phenomenological population model, we infer the mass and spin distribution of first-generation black holes, while self-consistently accounting for hierarchical mergers. Considering a range of cluster masses, we see compelling evidence for hierarchical mergers in clusters with escape velocities gsim100 km s−1. For our most probable cluster mass, we find that the catalog contains at least one second-generation merger with 99% credibility. We find that the hierarchical model is preferred over an alternative model with no hierarchical mergers (Bayes factor ${ \mathcal B }\gt 1400$) and that GW190521 is favored to contain two second-generation black holes with odds ${ \mathcal O }\gt 700$, and GW190519, GW190602, GW190620, and GW190706 are mixed-generation binaries with ${ \mathcal O }\gt 10$. However, our results depend strongly on the cluster escape velocity, with more modest evidence for hierarchical mergers when the escape velocity is lesssim100 km s−1. Assuming that all binary black holes are formed dynamically in globular clusters with escape velocities on the order of tens of km s−1, GW190519 and GW190521 are favored to include a second-generation black hole with odds ${ \mathcal O }\gt 1$. In this case, we find that 99% of black holes from the inferred total population have masses that are less than 49M⊙, and that this constraint is robust to our choice of prior on the maximum black hole mass.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Williams, Mr Daniel and Veitch, Dr John and Berry, Dr Christopher
Authors: Kimball, C., Talbot, C., Berry, C. P.L., Zevin, M., Thrane, E., Kalogera, V., Buscicchio, R., Carney, M., Dent, T., Middleton, H., Payne, E., Veitch, J., and Williams, D.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Physics and Astronomy
Journal Name:Astrophysical Journal Letters
Publisher:American Astronomical Society
ISSN (Online):2041-8213
Published Online:14 July 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The American Astronomical Society
First Published:First published in Astrophysical Journal Letters 915(2): L35
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy
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