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Tuning Forks and Galactic Centers at Paris

Mar. 15, 2021

The supermassive black holes which inhabit galactic centers constitute one of the major science targets for gravitational wave physics. Around them, several stellar-mass binaries can be present, forming so called hierarchical triple systems. Recent results in the weak-field regime, indicate these hierarchical triples possess particular waveform signatures that distinguish them from the compact binaries we usually work with.

In a GReCO webinar of the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, Francisco extended our understanding of hierarchical triples to the strong-field regime of gravity, showing that these systems can behave as driven harmonic oscillators, where the stellar-mass binaries mimic an external force, and the supermassive black hole is the damped oscillator. As in the undergraduate mechanics problem, when their frequencies match the hierarchical triples exhibit a resonant behavior! Future observations of this and other interesting properties of these systems will help us understand better the non-trivial environments where binaries can  evolve and learn more about the extremely complex physics of galactic centers.