Superradiant instabilities in astrophysical systems

Helvi Witek, Vitor Cardoso, Akihiro Ishibashi, Ulrich Sperhake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Light bosonic degrees of freedom have become a serious candidate for dark matter, which seems to pervade our entire Universe. The evolution of these fields around curved spacetimes is poorly understood but is expected to display interesting effects. In particular, the interaction of light bosonic fields with supermassive black holes, key players in most galaxies, could provide colorful examples of superradiance and nonlinear bosenovalike collapse. In turn, the observation of spinning black holes is expected to impose stringent bounds on the mass of putative massive bosonic fields in our Universe. Our purpose here is to present a comprehensive study of the evolution of linearized massive scalar and vector fields in the vicinities of rotating black holes. The evolution of generic initial data has a very rich structure, depending on the mass of the field and of the black hole. Quasinormal ringdown or exponential decay followed by a power-law tail at very late times is a generic feature of massless fields at intermediate times. Massive fields generically show a transition to power-law tails early on. For a certain boson field mass range, the field can become trapped in a potential barrier outside the horizon and transition to a bound state. Because there are a number of such quasibound states, the generic outcome is an amplitude modulated sinusoidal, or beating, signal, whose envelope is well described by the two lowest overtones. We believe that the appearance of such beatings has gone unnoticed in the past, and in fact mistaken for exponential growth. The amplitude modulation of the signal depends strongly on the relative excitation of the overtones, which in turn is strongly tied to the bound state geography. A fine-tuning of the initial data allows one to see the evolution of the nearly pure bound state mode that turns unstable for sufficiently large black hole (BH) rotation. For the first time we explore massive vector fields in a generic black hole background that are difficult, if not impossible, to separate in the Kerr background. Our results show that spinning BHs are generically strongly unstable against massive vector fields.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number043513
JournalPhysical Review D - Particles, Fields, Gravitation and Cosmology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 5 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


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