Authors: Michael Kesden, Ulrich Sperhake, Emanuele Berti
Date: 25 Mar 2010
Abstract: Numerical-relativity simulations indicate that the black hole produced in a binary merger can recoil with a velocity up to v_max ~ 4,000 km/s with respect to the center of mass of the initial binary. This challenges the paradigm that most galaxies form through hierarchical mergers, yet retain supermassive black holes at their centers despite having escape velocities much less than v_max. Interaction with a circumbinary disk can align the binary black hole spins with their orbital angular momentum, reducing the recoil velocity of the final black hole produced in the subsequent merger. However, the effectiveness of this alignment depends on highly uncertain accretion flows near the binary black holes. In this Letter, we show that if the spin S_1 of the more massive binary black hole is even partially aligned with the orbital angular momentum L, relativistic spin precession on sub-parsec scales can align the binary black hole spins with each other. This alignment significantly reduces the recoil velocity even in the absence of gas. For example, if the angle between S_1 and L at large separations is 10 degrees while the second spin S_2 is isotropically distributed, the spin alignment discussed in this paper reduces the median recoil from 864 km/s to 273 km/s for maximally spinning black holes with a mass ratio of 9/11. This reduction will greatly increase the fraction of galaxies retaining their supermassive black holes.
© M. Vallisneri 2012 — last modified on 2010/01/29
Tantum in modicis, quantum in maximis