Exploring intermediate and massive black-hole binaries with the Einstein Telescope

Jonathan R. Gair, Ilya Mandel, M. Coleman Miller, Marta Volonteri

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45 Citations (Scopus)


We discuss the capability of a third-generation ground-based detector such as the Einstein Telescope (ET) to enhance our astrophysical knowledge through detections of gravitational waves emitted by binaries including intermediate-mass and massive black holes. The design target for such instruments calls for improved sensitivity at low frequencies, specifically in the ̃1-10 Hz range. This will allow the detection of gravitational waves generated in binary systems containing black holes of intermediate mass ̃100-10000 M⊙. We primarily discuss two different source types-mergers between two intermediate mass black holes (IMBHs) of comparable mass, and intermediate-mass-ratio inspirals (IMRIs) of smaller compact objects with mass ̃1-10 M⊙ into IMBHs. IMBHs may form via two channels: (i) in dark matter halos at high redshift through direct collapse or the collapse of very massive metal-poor Population III stars, or (ii) via runaway stellar collisions in globular clusters. In this paper, we will discuss both formation channels, and both classes of merger in each case. We review existing rate estimates where these exist in the literature, and provide some new calculations for the approximate numbers of events that will be seen by a detector like the Einstein Telescope. These results indicate that the ET may see a few to a few thousand comparable-mass IMBH mergers and as many as several hundred IMRI events per year. These observations will significantly enhance our understanding of galactic black-hole growth, of the existence and properties of IMBHs and of the astrophysics of globular clusters. We finish our review with a discussion of some more speculative sources of gravitational waves for the ET, including hypermassive white dwarfs and eccentric stellar-mass compact-object binaries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-518
Number of pages34
JournalGeneral Relativity and Gravitation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • General relativity
  • Gravitational waves
  • Intermediate mass black holes
  • Structure formation
  • White dwarfs

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