Constraining gravity with eccentric gravitational waves: projected upper bounds and model selection

Blake Moore, Nicolás Yunes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gravitational waves allow us to test general relativity in the highly dynamical regime. While current observations have been consistent with waves emitted by quasi-circular binaries, eccentric binaries may also produce detectable signals in the near future with ground- and space-based detectors. We here explore how tests of general relativity scale with the orbital eccentricity of the source during the inspiral of compact objects up to e ∼ 0.8. We use a new, third post-Newtonian-accurate, eccentric waveform model for the inspiral of compact objects, which is fast enough for Bayesian parameter estimation and model selection, and highly accurate for modeling moderately eccentric inspirals. We derive and incorporate the eccentric corrections to this model induced in Brans-Dicke theory and in Einstein-dilaton-Gauss-Bonnet gravity at leading post-Newtonian order, which suggest a straightforward eccentric extension of the parameterized post-Einsteinian formalism. We explore the upper limits that could be set on the coupling parameters of these modified theories through both a confidence-interval- and Bayes-factor-based approach, using a Markov-Chain Monte Carlo and a trans-dimensional, reversible-jump, Markov-Chain Monte Carlo method. We find projected constraints with signals from sources with e ∼ 0.4 that are one order of magnitude stronger than that those obtained with quasi-circular binaries in advanced LIGO. In particular, eccentric gravitational waves detected at design sensitivity should be able to constrain the Brans-Dicke coupling parameter ω ⪆ 3300 and the Gauss-Bonnet coupling parameter α 1/2 ≲ 0.5 km at 90% confidence. Although the projected constraint on ω is weaker than other current constraints, the projected constraint on α 1/2 is 10 times stronger than the current gravitational wave bound.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number165006
JournalClassical and Quantum Gravity
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 20 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


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