A semianalytic Fisher matrix for precessing binaries with a single significant spin

Richard O'Shaughnessy, Prakash Nepal, Andrew Lundgren

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Gravitational waves from a binary with a single dynamically significant spin, notably including precessing black hole-neutron star binaries, let us constrain that binary's properties: the two masses and the dominant black hole spin. Based on a straightforward fourier transform of enabled by the corotating frame, we show the Fisher matrix for precessing binaries can be well-approximated by an extremely simple semianalytic approximation. This approximation can be easily understood as a weighted average of independent information channels, each associated with one gravitational wave harmonic. Generalizing previous studies of nonprecessing binaries to include critical symmetry-breaking precession effects required to understand plausible astrophysical sources, our ansatz can be applied to address how well gravitational wave measurements can address a wide range of astrophysical and fundamental questions. This Fisher matrix approach provides a simple method to assess what parameters gravitational wave detectors can measure, how well, and why. Our study is the first analytically-tractable Fisher matrix calculation for precessing binaries.
Original languageEnglish
Article number115006
Number of pages11
JournalClassical and Quantum Gravity
Issue number11
Early online date30 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2020


  • RCUK
  • STFC
  • ST/S000550/1


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