On the coexistence of stellar-mass and intermediate-mass black holes in globular clusters

W. C.Nathan Leigh*, Nora Lützgendorf, Aaron M. Geller, Thomas J. Maccarone, Craig Heinke, Alberto Sesana

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


In this paper, we address the question: what is the probability of stellar-mass black hole (BH) binaries co-existing in a globular cluster with an intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH)? Our results suggest that the detection of one or more BH binaries can strongly constrain the presence of an IMBH in most Galactic globular clusters. More specifically, the detection of one or more BH binaries could strongly indicate against the presence of an IMBH more massive than ≳103 M in roughly 80 per cent of the clusters in our sample. To illustrate this, we use a combination of N-body simulations and analytic methods to weigh the rate of formation of BH binaries against their ejection and/or disruption rate via strong gravitational interactions with the central (most) massive BH. The eventual fate of a sub-population of stellar-mass BHs (with or without binary companions) is for all BHs to be ejected from the cluster by the central IMBH, leaving only the most massive stellar-mass BH behind to form a close binary with the IMBH. During each phase of evolution, we discuss the rate of inspiral of the central BH-BH pair as a function of both the properties of the binary and its host cluster.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-42
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 26 2014


  • Dynamics
  • Globular clusters: general
  • Methods: analytical
  • Scattering
  • Stars: kinematics
  • X-rays: binaries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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