The missing link in gravitational-wave astronomy: Discoveries waiting in the decihertz range

Manuel Arca Sedda, Christopher P.L. Berry, Karan Jani, Pau Amaro-Seoane, Pierre Auclair, Jonathon Baird, Tessa Baker, Emanuele Berti, Katelyn Breivik, Adam Burrows, Chiara Caprini, Xian Chen, Daniela Doneva, Jose M. Ezquiaga, K. E. Saavik Ford, Michael L. Katz, Shimon Kolkowitz, Barry McKernan, Guido Mueller, Germano NardiniIgor Pikovski, Surjeet Rajendran, Alberto Sesana, Lijing Shao, Nicola Tamanini, David Vartanyan, Niels Warburton, Helvi Witek, Kaze Wong, Michael Zevin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The gravitational-wave astronomical revolution began in 2015 with LIGO’s observation of the coalescence of two stellar-mass black holes. Over the coming decades, ground-based detectors like laser interferometer gravitational-wave observatory (LIGO), Virgo and KAGRA will extend their reach, discovering thousands of stellar-mass binaries. In the 2030s, the space-based laser interferometer space antenna (LISA) will enable gravitational-wave observations of the massive black holes in galactic centres. Between ground-based observatories and LISA lies the unexplored dHz gravitational-wave frequency band. Here, we show the potential of a decihertz observatory (DO) which could cover this band, and complement discoveries made by other gravitational-wave observatories. The dHz range is uniquely suited to observation of intermediate-mass (∼102–104M) black holes, which may form the missing link between stellar-mass and massive black holes, offering an opportunity to measure their properties. DOs will be able to detect stellar-mass binaries days to years before they merge and are observed by ground-based detectors, providing early warning of nearby binary neutron star mergers, and enabling measurements of the eccentricity of binary black holes, providing revealing insights into their formation. Observing dHz gravitational-waves also opens the possibility of testing fundamental physics in a new laboratory, permitting unique tests of general relativity (GR) and the standard model of particle physics. Overall, a DO would answer outstanding questions about how black holes form and evolve across cosmic time, open new avenues for multimessenger astronomy, and advance our understanding of gravitation, particle physics and cosmology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number215011
JournalClassical and Quantum Gravity
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 5 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Compact binaries
  • Decihertz observatories
  • Early universe physics
  • Gravitational-wave detectors
  • Intermediate-mass black holes
  • Multiband gravitational-wave astronomy
  • Tests of general relativity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


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