Expectations for extreme-mass-ratio bursts from the galactic centre

C. P.L. Berry*, J. R. Gair

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


When a compact object on a highly eccentric orbit about a much more massive body passes through periapsis, it emits a short gravitational wave signal known as an extreme-mass-ratio burst (EMRB). We consider stellar mass objects orbiting the massive black hole (MBH) found in the Galactic Centre (GC). EMRBs provide a novel means of extracting information about the MBH; an EMRB from the Galactic MBH could be highly informative regarding the MBH's mass and spin if the orbital periapsis is small enough. However, to be a useful astronomical tool, EMRBs must be both informative and sufficiently common to be detectable with a space-based interferometer. We construct a simple model to predict the event rate for Galactic EMRBs. We estimate that there could be on average ~2 bursts in a two-year mission lifetime for the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna. Stellar mass black holes dominate the event rate. Creating a sample of 100 mission realizations, we calculate what we could learn about the MBH. On average, we expect to be able to determine the MBH mass to ~1 per cent and the spin to ~0.1 using EMRBs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3521-3540
Number of pages20
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Black hole physics
  • Celestial mechanics
  • Galaxy: centre
  • Gravitational waves

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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