General relativistic orbital decay in a seven-minute-orbital-period eclipsing binary system

July 2019 • 2019Natur.571..528B

Authors • Burdge, Kevin B. • Coughlin, Michael W. • Fuller, Jim • Kupfer, Thomas • Bellm, Eric C. • Bildsten, Lars • Graham, Matthew J. • Kaplan, David L. • Roestel, Jan van • Dekany, Richard G. • Duev, Dmitry A. • Feeney, Michael • Giomi, Matteo • Helou, George • Kaye, Stephen • Laher, Russ R. • Mahabal, Ashish A. • Masci, Frank J. • Riddle, Reed • Shupe, David L. • Soumagnac, Maayane T. • Smith, Roger M. • Szkody, Paula • Walters, Richard • Kulkarni, S. R. • Prince, Thomas A.

Abstract • General relativity1 predicts that short-orbital-period binaries emit considerable amounts of gravitational radiation. The upcoming Laser Interferometer Space Antenna2 (LISA) is expected to detect tens of thousands of such systems3 but few have been identified4, of which only one5 is eclipsing—the double-white-dwarf binary SDSS J065133.338+284423.37, which has an orbital period of 12.75 minutes. Here we report the discovery of an eclipsing double-white-dwarf binary system, ZTF J153932.16+502738.8, with an orbital period of 6.91 minutes. This system has an orbit so compact that the entire binary could fit within the diameter of the planet Saturn. The system exhibits a deep eclipse, and a double-lined spectroscopic nature. We see rapid orbital decay, consistent with that expected from general relativity. ZTF J153932.16+502738.8 is a strong source of gravitational radiation close to the peak of LISA's sensitivity, and we expect it to be detected within the first week of LISA observations, once LISA launches in approximately 2034.


IPAC Authors

George Helou

IPAC Executive Director

Dave Shupe

Senior Scientist