Gravitational radiation from the galaxy

D. Hils, P. L. Bender, R. F. Webbink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We calculate the spectral flux of gravitational radiation incident on earth due to major binary components in the Galaxy. Binary systems considered are the following: W UMa binaries, unevolved binaries, cataclysmic binaries, neutron star binaries, black hole-neutron star binaries, and close white dwarf binary systems. For ultra low frequencies (<10 μHz), the gravitational flux is predominantly emitted by unevolved binaries. The integrated flux incident on earth is FUB ≃ 2.4 × 10-9 ergs cm-2 s-1. If, as predicted theoretically, close white dwarf binaries are the inevitable end product of the stellar evolution of many close progenitor binary systems, then the gravitational radiation emitted in the frequency interval from 100 μHz to 100 mHz would be dominated by close white dwarf binaries. Their total flux would be FCWDB ≃ 10-5 ergs cm-2 s-1. In their absence, cataclysmic binaries should show a characteristic feature near 300 μHz. Above 300 μHz, neutron star and other doubly compact binaries would be the sole source of gravitational radiation. The peak values for the strain amplitude hv produced by these binaries are as follows: W UMa's, log hv = -17.0 Hz-1/2 at log v = -4.40 Hz; unevolved binaries, log hv = -16.5 Hz-1/2 at log v = -5.50 Hz; neutron star binaries, log hv= -18.2 Hz-1/2 at log v = -5.15 Hz; black hole-neutron star binaries, log hv = -17.0 Hz-1/2 at log v = -4.7 Hz; cataclysmic binaries, log hv = -18.0 Hz-1/2 at log v = -4.10 Hz; and close white dwarf binaries, log hv = -17.0 Hz-1/2 at log v = -4.0 Hz. Tables of various useful quantities such as average gravitational wave luminosity, spectral space density, and energy spectral flux density, and gravitational wave strain amplitude are given.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-94
Number of pages20
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 1990


  • Galaxies: The Galaxy
  • Gravitation
  • Stars: binaries
  • Stars: white dwarfs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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