The Mass Distribution of Galactic Double Neutron Stars

Nicholas Farrow, Xing Jiang Zhu, Eric Thrane

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117 Citations (Scopus)


The conventional wisdom, dating back to 2012, is that the mass distribution of Galactic double neutron stars (DNSs) is well-fit by a Gaussian distribution with a mean of 1.33 M o and a width of 0.09 M o. With the recent discovery of new Galactic DNSs and GW170817, the first neutron star merger event to be observed with gravitational waves, it is timely to revisit this model. In order to constrain the mass distribution of DNSs, we perform Bayesian inference using a sample of 17 Galactic DNSs, effectively doubling the sample used in previous studies. We expand the space of models so that the recycled neutron star need not be drawn from the same distribution as the nonrecycled companion. Moreover, we consider different functional forms including uniform, single-Gaussian, and two-Gaussian distributions. While there is insufficient data to draw firm conclusions, we find positive support (a Bayes factor (BF) of 9) for the hypothesis that recycled and nonrecycled neutron stars have distinct mass distributions. The most probable model - preferred with a BF of 29 over the conventional model - is one in which the recycled neutron star mass is distributed according to a two-Gaussian distribution, and the nonrecycled neutron star mass is distributed uniformly. We show that precise component mass measurements of ≈20 DNSs are required in order to determine with high confidence (a BF of 150) whether recycled and nonrecycled neutron stars come from a common distribution. Approximately 60 DNSs are needed in order to establish the detailed shape of the distributions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
Number of pages10
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • gravitational waves
  • methods: data analysis
  • pulsars: general
  • stars: neutron

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