Editors: Pau Amaro-Seoane & Bernard Schutz
The last GW Note is a Special Issues on eLISA/NGO

The role of the supermassive black hole spin in the estimation of the EMRI event rate

arXiv:1205.4713

by Amaro-Seoane, Pau and Sopuerta, Carlos F. and Freitag, Marc Dewi
Submitted. Abstract abridged

One of the main channels of interactions in galactic nuclei between stars and the central massive black hole (MBH) is the gradual inspiral of compact remnants into the MBH due to the emission of gravitational radiation. Previous works about the estimation of how many events space observatories such as LISA will be able to observe during its operational time differ in orders of magnitude, due to the complexity of the problem. Nevertheless, a common result to all investigations is that a plunge is much more likely than a slow adiabatic inspiral, an EMRI. The event rates for plunges are orders of magnitude larger than slow inspirals. On the other hand, nature MBH’s are most likely Kerr and the magnitude of the spin has been sized up to be high. We calculate the number of periapsis passages that a compact object set on to an extremely radial orbit goes through before being actually swallowed by the Kerr MBH and we then translate it into an event rate for a LISA-like observatory. We prove that a “plunging” compact object is conceptually indistinguishable from an adiabatic, slow inspiral. This has an important impact on the event rate, enhancing in some cases significantly, depending on the spin of the MBH and the inclination: If the orbit of the EMRI is prograde, the effective size of the MBH becomes smaller the larger the spin is, whilst if retrograde, it becomes bigger. However, this situation is not symmetric, resulting in an effective enhancement of the rates. The effect of vectorial resonant relaxation on the sense of the orbit does not affect the enhancement. The strong dependence on the spin magnitude and orbital orientation of the EMRI on the rates will allow us to study stellar dynamics in a regime which is invisible to photon-based astrophysics.

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