The space-based Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) will be able to observe the gravitational-wave signals from systems comprised of a massive black hole and a stellar-mass compact object.

Stanislav Babak, Jonathan Gair, Alberto Sesana, Enrico Barausse, Carlos F. Sopuerta, Christopher P. L. Berry, Emanuele Berti, Pau Amaro-Seoane, Antoine Petiteau, Antoine Klein

These systems are known as extreme-mass-ratio inspirals (EMRIs) and are expected to complete ∼ 10^{4} – 10^{5 }cycles in band, thus allowing exquisite measurements of their parameters. In this work, we attempt to quantify the astrophysical uncertainties affecting the predictions for the number of EMRIs detectable by LISA, and find that competing astrophysical assumptions produce a variance of about three orders of magnitude in the expected intrinsic EMRI rate. However, we find that irrespective of the astrophysical model, at least a few EMRIs per year should be detectable by the LISA mission, with up to a few thousands per year under the most optimistic astrophysical assumptions. We also investigate the precision with which LISA will be able to extract the parameters of these sources. We find that typical fractional statistical errors with which the intrinsic parameters (redshifted masses, massive black hole spin and orbital eccentricity) can be recovered are ∼ 10^{-6} – 10^{-4}. Luminosity distance (which is required to infer true masses) is inferred to about 10% precision and sky position is localized to a few square degrees, while tests of the multipolar structure of the Kerr metric can be performed to percent-level precision or better.