Nutational resonances, transitional precession, and precession-averaged evolution in binary black-hole systems

5 May 2017  ·  Xinyu Zhao, Michael Kesden, Davide Gerosa ·

In the post-Newtonian (PN) regime, the timescale on which the spins of binary black holes precess is much shorter than the radiation-reaction timescale on which the black holes inspiral to smaller separations. On the precession timescale, the angle between the total and orbital angular momenta oscillates with nutation period $\tau$, during which the orbital angular momentum precesses about the total angular momentum by an angle $\alpha$. This defines two distinct frequencies that vary on the radiation-reaction timescale: the nutation frequency $\omega \equiv 2\pi/\tau$ and the precession frequency $\Omega \equiv \alpha/\tau$. We use analytic solutions for generic spin precession at 2PN order to derive Fourier series for the total and orbital angular momenta in which each term is a sinusoid with frequency $\Omega - n\omega$ for integer $n$. As black holes inspiral, they can pass through nutational resonances ($\Omega = n\omega$) at which the total angular momentum tilts. We derive an approximate expression for this tilt angle and show that it is usually less than $10^{-3}$ radians for nutational resonances at binary separations $r > 10M$. The large tilts occurring during transitional precession (near zero total angular momentum) are a consequence of such states being approximate $n=0$ nutational resonances. Our new Fourier series for the total and orbital angular momenta converge rapidly with $n$ providing an intuitive and computationally efficient approach to understanding generic precession that may facilitate future calculations of gravitational waveforms in the PN regime.

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General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena