The locations of features in the mass distribution of merging binary black holes are robust against uncertainties in the metallicity-dependent cosmic star formation history

L. A. C. van Son, S. E. de Mink, M. Chruslinska, C. Conroy, R. Pakmor, L. Hernquist

Submitted on 7 September 2022


New observational facilities are probing astrophysical transients such as stellar explosions and gravitational wave (GW) sources at ever increasing redshifts, while also revealing new features in source property distributions. To interpret these observations, we need to compare them to predictions from stellar population models. Such models require the metallicity-dependent cosmic star formation history (S(Z,z)) as an input. Large uncertainties remain in the shape and evolution of this function. In this work, we propose a simple analytical function for S(Z,z). Variations of this function can be easily interpreted, because the parameters link to its shape in an intuitive way. We fit our analytical function to the star-forming gas of the cosmological TNG100 simulation and find that it is able to capture the main behaviour well. As an example application, we investigate the effect of systematic variations in the S(Z,z) parameters on the predicted mass distribution of locally merging binary black holes (BBH). Our main findings are: I) the locations of features are remarkably robust against variations in the metallicity-dependent cosmic star formation history, and II) the low mass end is least affected by these variations. This is promising as it increases our chances to constrain the physics that governs the formation of these objects.


Comment: Submitted to ApJ, made with showyourwork, code available at

Subjects: Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies; Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena; Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics