Pulsar-black hole binaries: prospects for new gravity tests with future radio telescopes

Abstract : The anticipated discovery of a pulsar in orbit with a black hole is expected to provide a unique laboratory for black hole physics and gravity. In this context, the next generation of radio telescopes, like the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), with their unprecedented sensitivity, will play a key role. In this paper, we investigate the capability of future radio telescopes to probe the space–time of a black hole and test gravity theories by timing a pulsar orbiting a stellar-mass black hole (SBH). Based on mock data simulations, we show that a few years of timing observations of a sufficiently compact pulsar–SBH (PSR–SBH) system with future radio telescopes would allow precise measurements of the black hole mass and spin. A measurement precision of 1 per cent can be expected for the spin. Measuring the quadrupole moment of the black hole, needed to test general relativity’s (GR’s) no-hair theorem, requires extreme system configurations with compact orbits and a large SBH mass. Additionally, we show that a PSR–SBH system can lead to greatly improved constraints on alternative gravity theories even if they predict black holes (practically) identical to GR’s. This is demonstrated for a specific class of scalar–tensor theories. Finally, we investigate the requirements for searching for PSR–SBH systems. It is shown that the high sensitivity of the next generation of radio telescopes is key for discovering compact PSR–SBH systems, as it will allow for sufficiently short survey integration times.
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Kuo Liu, R. P. Eatough, N. Wex, M. Kramer. Pulsar-black hole binaries: prospects for new gravity tests with future radio telescopes. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Oxford University Press (OUP): Policy P - Oxford Open Option A, 2014, 445 (3), pp.3115-3132. ⟨10.1093/mnras/stu1913⟩. ⟨insu-01280822⟩

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