Studying strong phase transitions in neutron stars with gravitational waves

Katerina Chatziioannou, Sophia Han.


The composition of neutron stars at the extreme densities reached in their cores is currently unknown. Besides nuclear matter of normal neutrons and protons, the cores of neutron stars might harbor exotic matter such as deconfined quarks. In this paper we study strong hadron-quark phase transitions in the context of gravitational wave observations of inspiraling neutron stars. We consider upcoming detections of neutron star coalescences and model the neutron star equations of state with phase transitions through the Constant-Speed-of-Sound parametrization. We use the fact that neutron star binaries with one or more hadron-quark hybrid stars can exhibit qualitatively different tidal properties than binaries with hadronic stars of the same mass, and hierarchically model the masses and tidal properties of simulated populations of binary neutron star inspiral signals. We explore the parameter space of phase transitions and discuss under which conditions future observations of binary neutron star inspirals can identify this effect and constrain its properties, in particular the threshold density at which the transition happens and the strength of the transition. We find that if the detected population of binary neutron stars contains both hadronic and hybrid stars, the onset mass and strength of a sufficiently strong phase transition can be constrained with 50-100 detections. If the detected neutron stars are exclusively hadronic or hybrid, then it is possible to place lower or upper limits on the transition density and strength.

Associated Fellows