Conservative Self-Force Correction to the Innermost Stable Circular Orbit: Comparison with Multiple Post-Newtonian-Based Methods

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Barack and Sago have recently computed the shift of the innermost stable circular orbit (ISCO) of the Schwarzschild spacetime due to the conservative self-force that arises from the finite-mass of an orbiting test-particle. This calculation of the ISCO shift is one of the first concrete results of the self-force program, and provides an exact (fully relativistic) 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 (Barack-Sago) result is found when the pseudo-4PN coefficient of the effective-one-body (EOB) metric is 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, which relies only on the (nonresummed) 3PN equations of motion. This method reproduces the exact test-particle limit without any resummation. A comparison of PN methods with the ISCO in the equal-mass case (computed via sequences of numerical relativity initial-data sets) is also performed. Here a (different) nonresummed method also performs very well (as was previously shown). These results suggest that the EOB approach-while exactly incorporating the conservative test-particle dynamics and having several other important advantages-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 in some cases 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.



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