Conservative self-force correction to the innermost stable circular orbit: comparison with multiple post-Newtonian-based methods


[abridged] Barack & Sago have recently computed the shift of the innermost stable circular orbit (ISCO) due to the conservative self-force that arises from the finite-mass of an orbiting test-particle. This is one of the first concrete results of the self-force program, and provides an exact point of comparison with approximate post-Newtonian (PN) computations of the ISCO. Here this exact ISCO shift is compared with nearly all known PN-based methods. These include both "nonresummed" and "resummed" approaches (the latter reproduce the test-particle limit by construction). The best agreement with the exact result is found from effective-one-body (EOB) calculations that are fit to numerical relativity simulations. However, if one considers uncalibrated methods based only on the currently known 3PN-order conservative dynamics, the best agreement is found from the gauge-invariant ISCO condition of Blanchet and Iyer (2003). This method reproduces the exact test-particle limit without any resummation. A comparison of PN methods with the equal-mass ISCO is also performed. The results of this study suggest that the EOB approach---while exactly incorporating the conservative test-particle dynamics---does not (in the absence of calibration) incorporate conservative self-force effects more accurately than standard PN methods. I also consider how the conservative self-force ISCO shift, combined with numerical relativity computations of the ISCO, can be used to constrain our knowledge of (1) the EOB effective metric, (2) phenomenological inspiral-merger-ringdown templates, and (3) 4PN and 5PN order terms in the PN orbital energy. These constraints could help in constructing better gravitational-wave templates. Lastly, I suggest a new method to calibrate unknown PN-terms in inspiral templates using numerical-relativity calculations.Comment: 27 pages, 2 figures, 2 tables. v2: some changes to Sec. VI in response to referee comments; references added; other minor changes to match published versio

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