The distribution of coalescing compact binaries in the local universe: Prospects for gravitational-wave observations

Luke Zoltan Kelley, Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, Marcel Zemp, Jürg Diemand, Ilya Mandel

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Merging compact binaries are the most viable and best-studied candidates for gravitational-wave (GW) detection by the fully operational network of ground-based observatories. In anticipation of the first detections, the expected distribution of GWsources in the local universe is of considerable interest. Here we investigate the full phase-space distribution of coalescing compact binaries at z = 0 using dark matter simulations of structure formation. The fact that these binary systems acquire large barycentric velocities at birth ("kicks") results in merger site distributions that are more diffusely distributed with respect to their putative hosts, with mergers occurring out to distances of a few Mpc from the host halo. Redshift estimates based solely on the nearest galaxy in projection can, as a result, be inaccurate. On the other hand, large offsets from the host galaxy could aid the detection of faint optical counterparts and should be considered when designing strategies for follow-up observations. The degree of isotropy in the projected sky distributions ofGWsources is found to be augmented with increasing kick velocity and to be severely enhanced if progenitor systems possess large kicks as inferred from the known population of pulsars and double compact binaries. Even in the absence of observed electromagnetic counterparts, the differences in sky distributions of binaries produced by disparate kick-velocity models could be discerned by GW observatories, within the expected accuracies and detection rates of advanced LIGO-in particular with the addition of more interferometers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L91-L96
Number of pages6
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1 PART 2
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Binaries: general
  • Gravitational waves
  • Stars: neutron

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