Abstract: Using the first law of binary black-hole mechanics, we compute the binding energy E and total angular momentum J of two non-spinning compact objects moving on circular orbits with frequency Omega, at leading order beyond the test-particle approximation. By minimizing E(Omega) we recover the exact frequency shift of the Schwarzschild innermost stable circular orbit induced by the conservative piece of the gravitational self-force. Comparing our results for the coordinate invariant relation E(J) to those recently obtained from numerical simulations of comparable-mass non-spinning black-hole binaries, we find a remarkably good agreement, even in the strong-field regime. This confirms that the domain of validity of perturbative calculations may extend well beyond the extreme mass-ratio limit. As a final application, we show how these results allow the effective-one-body metric to be determined exactly, at linear order in the mass ratio.
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