Capture of stellar mass compact objects by massive black holes in galactic cusps

S. Sigurdsson, M. J. Rees

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130 Scopus citations


A significant fraction of the stellar population in the cusps around central black holes of galaxies consists of compact remnants of evolved stars, such as white dwarfs, neutron stars and stellar mass black holes. We estimate the rate of capture of compact objects by massive central black holes, assuming that most spiral galaxies have a central black hole of modest mass (∼ 106 M), and a cuspy spheroid. It is likely that the total capture rate is dominated by nucleated spirals. We estimate the flux of gravitational wave radiation from such coalescences, and the estimated detectable source count for proposed space-based gravitational wave observatories such as LISA. About one event per year should be detectable within 1 Gpc, given very conservative estimates of the black hole masses and central galactic densities. We expect 102-103 detectable sources at lower frequencies (10-4 Hz) 'en route' to capture. If stellar mass black holes are ubiquitous, the signal may be dominated by stellar mass black holes coalescing with massive black holes. The rate of white dwarf-white dwarf mergers in the cores of nucleated spirals is estimated at ∼ 10-6 per year per galaxy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)318-326
Number of pages9
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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