Constraining the p-mode--g-mode tidal instability with GW170817

The LIGO Scientific Collaboration, The Virgo Collaboration, I. W. Harry, D. Keitel, A. P. Lundgren, L. K. Nuttall

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We analyze the impact of a proposed tidal instability coupling $p$-modes and $g$-modes within neutron stars on GW170817. This non-resonant instability transfers energy from the orbit of the binary to internal modes of the stars, accelerating the gravitational-wave driven inspiral. We model the impact of this instability on the phasing of the gravitational wave signal using three parameters per star: an overall amplitude, a saturation frequency, and a spectral index. Incorporating these additional parameters, we compute the Bayes Factor ($\ln B^{pg}_{!pg}$) comparing our $p$-$g$ model to a standard one. We find that the observed signal is consistent with waveform models that neglect $p$-$g$ effects, with $\ln B^{pg}_{!pg} = 0.03^{+0.70}_{-0.58}$ (maximum a posteriori and 90% credible region). By injecting simulated signals that do not include $p$-$g$ effects and recovering them with the $p$-$g$ model, we show that there is a $\simeq 50\%$ probability of obtaining similar $\ln B^{pg}_{!pg}$ even when $p$-$g$ effects are absent. We find that the $p$-$g$ amplitude for 1.4 $M_\odot$ neutron stars is constrained to $\lesssim \text{few}\times10^{-7}$, with maxima a posteriori near $\sim 10^{-7}$ and $p$-$g$ saturation frequency $\sim 70\, \mathrm{Hz}$. This suggests that there are less than a few hundred excited modes, assuming they all saturate by wave breaking. For comparison, theoretical upper bounds suggest a $p$-$g$ amplitude $\lesssim 10^{-6}$ and $\lesssim 10^{3}$ modes saturating by wave breaking. Thus, the measured constraints only rule out extreme values of the $p$-$g$ parameters. They also imply that the instability dissipates $\lesssim 10^{51}\, \mathrm{ergs}$ over the entire inspiral, i.e., less than a few percent of the energy radiated as gravitational waves.
Original languageEnglish
Article number061104
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2019


  • astro-ph.HE
  • RCUK
  • STFC


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