First gravitational-wave search for intermediate-mass black hole mergers with higher order harmonics

Koustav Chandra, Juan Calderón Bustillo, Archana Pai, Ian Harry

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Current matched-filter searches for gravitational waves from binary black-hole mergers compare the calibrated detector data to waveform templates that omit the higher-order mode content of the signals predicted by general relativity. However, higher-order emission modes become important for highly inclined asymmetric sources with masses above ≃100M⊙, causing current searches to be ill suited at detecting them. We present a new gravitational-wave search that implements templates including higher-order modes, adapted signal-glitch discriminators and trigger-ranking statistics to specifically target signals displaying strong higher modes, corresponding to nearly edge-on sources with total redshifted masses in the intermediate-mass black-hole range MT(1+z)∈(100,500)M⊙ and mass ratios q∈(1,10). Our search shows a volumetric sensitivity gain of up to 450% to these signals compared to existing searches omitting higher-order modes. We deploy our search on public data from the third observing run of Advanced LIGO. While we find no statistically significant candidates beyond those already reported elsewhere, our search sets the stage to search for higher-mode rich signals in future observing runs. The efficient detection of such signals is crucial to performing detailed tests of general relativity, observing strong-field phenomena, and maximizing the chances of observing the yet uncharted realm of intermediate-mass black hole binaries.
Original languageEnglish
Article number123003
Number of pages15
JournalPhysical Review D
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2022


  • gr-qc
  • UKRI
  • STFC
  • ST/T000333/1
  • ST/V005715/1


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