Observing complete gravitational wave signals from dynamical capture binaries

William E. East, Sean T. McWilliams, Janna Levin, Frans Pretorius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


We assess the detectability of the gravitational wave signals from highly eccentric compact binaries. We use a simple model for the inspiral, merger, and ringdown of these systems. The model is based on mapping the binary to an effective single black hole system described by a Kerr metric, thereby including certain relativistic effects such as zoom-whirl-type behavior. The resultant geodesics source quadrupolar radiation and, in turn, are evolved under its dissipative effects. At the light ring, we attach a merger model that was previously developed for quasicircular mergers but also performs well for eccentric mergers with little modification. We apply this model to determine the detectability of these sources for initial, Enhanced, and Advanced laser interferometer gravitational-wave observatory across the parameter space of nonspinning close capture compact binaries. We conclude that, should these systems exist in nature, the vast majority will be missed by conventional burst searches or by quasicircular waveform templates in the advanced detector era. Other methods, such as eccentric templates or, more practically, a stacked excess power search, must be developed to avoid losing these sources. These systems would also have been missed frequently in the initial laser interferometer gravitational-wave observatory data analysis. Thus, previous null coincidence results with detected gamma-ray bursts cannot exclude the possibility of coincident gravitational wave signals from eccentric binaries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number043004
JournalPhysical Review D - Particles, Fields, Gravitation and Cosmology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 12 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


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