Coalescing binary black holes experience an impulsive kick due to anisotropic emission of gravitational waves. We discuss the dynamical consequences of the recoil accompanying massive black hole mergers. Recoil velocities are sufficient to eject most coalescing black holes from dwarf galaxies and globular clusters, which may explain the apparent absence of massive black holes in these systems. Ejection from giant elliptical galaxies would be rare, but coalescing black holes are displaced from the center and fall back on a time scale of order the half-mass crossing time. Displacement of the black holes transfers energy to the stars in the nucleus and can convert a steep density cusp into a core. Radiation recoil calls into question models that grow supermassive black holes from hierarchical mergers of stellar-mass precursors.
Department, Program, or Center
School of Physics and Astronomy (COS)
Astrophysical Journal-Letters vol. 607, no. 1, Part 2 May 20, 2004 p. L9 - L12
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