A comprehensive study of binary compact objects as gravitational wave sources: Evolutionary channels, rates, and physical properties

Krzysztof Belczynski*, Vassiliki Kalogera, Tomasz Bulik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

798 Scopus citations


A new generation of ground-based interferometric detectors for gravitational waves is currently under construction or has entered the commissioning phase (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory [LIGO], VIRGO, GEO600, TAMA300). The purpose of these detectors is to observe gravitational waves from astrophysical sources and help improve our understanding of the source origin and physical properties. In this paper we study the most promising candidate sources for these detectors: inspiraling double compact objects. We use population synthesis methods to calculate the properties and coalescence rates of compact object binaries: double neutron stars, black hole-neutron star systems, and double black holes. We also examine the formation channels available to double compact object binaries. We explicitly account for the evolution of low-mass helium stars and investigate the possibility of common-envelope evolution involving helium stars as well as two evolved stars. As a result we identify a significant number of new formation channels for double neutron stars, in particular, leading to populations with very distinct properties. We discuss the theoretical and observational implications of such populations, but we also note the need for hydrodynamical calculations to settle the question of whether such common-envelope evolution is possible. We also present and discuss the physical properties of compact object binaries and identify a number of robust, qualitative features as well as their origin. Using the calculated coalescence rates we compare our results to earlier studies and derive expected detection rates for LIGO. We find that our most optimistic estimate for the first LIGO detectors reach a couple of events per year and our most pessimistic estimate for advanced LIGO detectors exceed ≃ 10 events per year.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-431
Number of pages25
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Jun 10 2002


  • Binaries: close
  • Black hole physics
  • Gravitational waves
  • Stars: evolution
  • Stars: neutron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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