Brightness from the Blackest Night: Bursts of Gamma Rays and Gravity Waves from Black Hole Binaries

Research paper by G. E. Brown, R. A. M. J. Wijers, C. -H. Lee, H. -K. Lee, H. A. Bethe

Indexed on: 26 May '99Published on: 26 May '99Published in: Astrophysics


We use recent results in binary stellar evolution to argue that binaries with at least one black hole dominate the rate of compact-object mergers. Two phenomena generally attributable to such mergers, gamma-ray bursts and gravity-wave bursts, are therefore likely to originate from near the event horizon of a black hole. In addition to sheer numbers, black holes have an added advantage over neutron stars in both phenomena. For gamma-ray bursts, the presence of an event horizon eases the baryon pollution problem, because energy can be stored into rotation until most baryons have been swallowed, and then released into a cleaner environment via the Blandford-Znajek process. For gravity-wave bursts, black holes offer higher luminosities due to their higher masses, thus enabling detection out to larger distances, which leads to a 30-fold increase in the predicted LIGO event rate.