Conservative corrections to the innermost stable circular orbit (ISCO) of a Kerr black hole: a new gauge-invariant post-Newtonian ISCO condition, and the ISCO shift due to test-particle spin and the gravitational self-force


The innermost stable circular orbit (ISCO) delimits the transition from circular orbits to those that plunge into a black hole. In the test-mass limit, well-defined ISCO conditions exist for the Kerr and Schwarzschild spacetimes. In the finite-mass case, there are a large variety of ways to define an ISCO in a post-Newtonian (PN) context. Here I generalize the gauge-invariant ISCO condition of Blanchet & Iyer (2003) to the case of spinning (nonprecessing) binaries. The Blanchet-Iyer ISCO condition has two desirable and unexpected properties: (1) it exactly reproduces the Schwarzschild ISCO in the test-mass limit, and (2) it accurately approximates the recently-calculated shift in the Schwarzschild ISCO frequency due to the conservative-piece of the gravitational self-force [Barack & Sago (2009)]. The generalization of this ISCO condition to spinning binaries has the property that it also exactly reproduces the Kerr ISCO in the test-mass limit (up to the order at which PN spin corrections are currently known). The shift in the ISCO due to the spin of the test-particle is also calculated. Remarkably, the gauge-invariant PN ISCO condition exactly reproduces the ISCO shift predicted by the Papapetrou equations for a fully-relativistic spinning particle. It is surprising that an analysis of the stability of the standard PN equations of motion is able (without any form of "resummation") to accurately describe strong-field effects of the Kerr spacetime. The ISCO frequency shift due to the conservative self-force in Kerr is also calculated from this new ISCO condition, as well as from the effective-one-body Hamiltonian of Barausse & Buonanno (2010). These results serve as a useful point-of-comparison for future gravitational self-force calculations in the Kerr spacetime.Comment: 17 pages, 2 figures, 1 table. v2: references added; minor changes to match published versio

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