Probing Supermassive Black Hole Seed Scenarios with Gravitational-wave Measurements

Malcolm Fairbairn, John Ellis, Ville Vaskonen, Juan Urrutia*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The process whereby the supermassive black holes (SMBHs) populating the centers of galaxies have been assembled remains to be established, with the relative importance of seeds provided by collapsed Population III stars, black holes formed in nuclear star clusters via repeated mergers, or direct collapses of protogalactic disks yet to be determined. In this paper we study the prospects for casting light on this issue by future measurements of gravitational waves emitted during the inspirals and mergers of pairs of intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs), discussing in particular the roles of prospective measurements by LISA and the proposed atom interferometers AION and AEDGE. We find that the expected number of detectable IMBH binaries is O(100) for LISA and AEDGE and O(10) for AION in low-mass seeds scenarios and goes down to O(10) for LISA and below one for AEDGE and AION in high-mass seed scenarios. This allows all of these observatories to probe the parameters of the seed model, in particular, if at least a fraction of the SMBHs arises from a low-mass seed population. We also show that the measurement accuracy of the binary parameters is, in general, best for AEDGE, which sees very precisely the merger of the binary.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11
Pages (from-to)11-18
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2024


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