Abstract The environment, such as an accretion disk, could modify the signal of the gravitational wave from astrophysical black hole binaries. In this article, we model the matter field around intermediate-mass binary black holes by means of an axion-like scalar field and investigate their joint evolution. In detail, we consider equal mass binary black holes surrounded by a shell of axion-like scalar field both in spherically symmetric and non-spherically symmetric cases, and with different strengths of the scalar field. Our result shows that the environmental scalar field could essentially modify the dynamics. Firstly, in the spherically symmetric case, with increase of the scalar field strength, the number of circular orbits for the binary black hole is reduced. This means that the scalar field could significantly accelerate the merger process. Secondly, once the scalar field strength exceeds a certain critical value, the scalar field could collapse into a third black hole with its mass being larger than that of the binary. Consequently, the new black hole that collapses from the environmental scalar field could accrete the binary promptly and the binary collides head-on with each other. In this process, there is almost no quadrupole signal produced, and, consequently, the gravitational wave is greatly suppressed. Thirdly, when the scalar field strength is relatively smaller than the critical value, the black hole orbit could develop eccentricity through accretion of the scalar field. Fourthly, during the initial stage of the inspiral, the gravitational attractive force from the axion-like scalar field could induce a sudden turn in the binary orbits, hence resulting in a transient wiggle in the gravitational waveform. Finally, in the non-spherical case, the scalar field could gravitationally attract the binary moving toward the center of mass for the scalar field and slow down the merger process.
Keywords stars: black holes — gravitational waves — methods: numerical
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