The dynamics of the relativistic two-body problem will be studied in the limit where one of the bodies is very much more massive than the other. The extreme mass ratio is amenable to analytic treatment, and can be used to describe a neutron star or similar object interacting with a super-massive galactic black hole. The primary questions to be addressed concern the dynamical stability of the orbits and the transition from inspiral to plunge. This should shed light on our ability to extract information from the gravitational waves emitted during the final stages of the orbital evolution. A variety of new and existing techniques will be developed and applied.
The evolution of two masses under their mutual gravitational attraction is a major outstanding problem in classical general relativity. It has a direct bearing on the observational program of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO). The possibly that the orbital evolution is effectively chaotic has a number of interesting theoretical and observational consequences.