Gravitational Waves from Accreting Neutron Stars Undergoing Common-envelope Inspiral

A. Miguel Holgado, Paul M. Ricker, E. A. Huerta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The common-envelope phase is a likely formation channel for close binary systems containing compact objects. Neutron stars in common envelopes accrete at a fraction of the Bondi-Hoyle-Lyttleton accretion rate, since the stellar envelope is inhomogeneous, but they may still be able to accrete at hypercritical rates (though not enough to become black holes). We show that common-envelope systems consisting of a neutron star with a massive primary may be gravitational-wave (GW) sources detectable in the Advanced LIGO band as far away as the Magellanic Clouds. To characterize their evolution, we perform orbital integrations using 1D models of 12 M o and 20 M o primaries, considering the effects of density gradient on the accretion onto the NS and spin evolution. From the range of possible accretion rates relevant to common-envelope evolution, we find that these systems may be louder GW sources than low-mass X-ray binaries like Sco X-1, which are currently the target of directed searches for continuous GWs. We also find that their strain amplitude signal may allow for novel constraints on the orbital separation and inspiral timescale in common envelopes when combined with pre-common-envelope electromagnetic observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number38
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 10 2018


  • binaries: close
  • gravitational waves
  • stars: neutron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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