The evolution of cosmic structures, the formation and growth of the first black holes and the connection to their baryonic environment are key unsolved problems in astrophysics. The X-ray Athena mission and the gravitational-wave Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) offer independent and complementary angles on these problems. We show that up to about 10 black hole binaries in the mass range of approximately 105 to 108 solar masses discovered by LISA at redshift below about 3.5 could be detected by Athena in an exposure time up to 100 ks, if prompt X-ray emission of 1–10% of the Eddington luminosity is present. Likewise, if any LISA-detected extreme-mass-ratio inspirals occur in accretion disks, Athena can detect associated electromagnetic emission out to a redshift of about 1. Finally, warned by LISA, Athena can point in advance and stare at stellar-mass binary black hole mergers at redshift less than about 0.1. These science opportunities emphasize the vast discovery space of simultaneous observations from the two observatories, which would be missed if they were operated in different epochs.
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The source data used in the figures are available on request from the corresponding author.
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S.McG. acknowledges the support of the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC); A.S. is supported by a University Research Fellowship of the Royal Society; A.V. acknowledges support from STFC, UK Space Agency, the Royal Society and the Wolfson Foundation. We thank E. Barausse for providing the MBHB population models discussed in the text.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Astronomy thanks Monica Colpi and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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McGee, S., Sesana, A. & Vecchio, A. Linking gravitational waves and X-ray phenomena with joint LISA and Athena observations. Nat Astron 4, 26–31 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-019-0969-7
Gravitational-wave Detection and Parameter Estimation for Accreting Black-hole Binaries and Their Electromagnetic Counterpart
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