Fabio Antonini, Frederic A. Rasio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

286 Scopus citations


Motivated by the recent detection of gravitational waves from the black hole binary merger GW150914, we study the dynamical evolution of (stellar-mass) black holes in galactic nuclei, where massive star clusters reside. With masses of ∼107 M· and sizes of only a few parsecs, nuclear star clusters (NSCs) are the densest stellar systems observed in the local universe and represent a robust environment where black hole binaries can dynamically form, harden,?and merge. We show that due to their large escape speeds, NSCs can retain a large fraction of their merger remnants. Successive mergers can then lead to significant growth and produce black hole mergers of several tens of solar masses similar to GW150914 and up to a few hundreds of solar masses, without the need to?invoke extremely low metallicity environments. We use a semi-analytical approach to describe the dynamics of black holes in massive star clusters. Our models give a black hole binary merger rate of 1.5 Gpc-3yr-1 from NSCs, implying up to a few tens of possible detections per year with Advanced LIGO. Moreover, we find a local merger rate of ∼1 Gpc-3 yr-1 for high mass black hole binaries similar to GW150914; a merger rate comparable to or higher than that of similar binaries assembled dynamically in globular clusters (GCs). Finally, we show that if all black holes receive high natal kicks, 50 km s-1, then NSCs will dominate the local merger rate of binary black holes compared to either GCs or isolated binary evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number187
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 10 2016


  • galaxies: nuclei
  • gravitational waves
  • stars: black holes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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