Project Details


Of the several gravitational wave sources that could potentially be seen by LIGO and VIRGO, the most promising candidate appears to be mergers of neutron stars or black holes in tight binaries. For the so-called `Advanced' versions of these detectors, anticipated event rates from mergers are ~102/yr. Naturally, one will want to glean as much astronomical information as possible from these detections: one will want to determine the angular position and distance to the binary, whether the bodies are neutron stars or black holes, the masses of the two bodies, et cetera. Prof. Cutler will initiate a program of research to determine how accurately LIGO/VIRGO can measure these quantities. In extracting this information from the gravitational wave signal, there are two kinds of errors: measurement errors due to detector noise, and theoretical errors due to limitations on the ability of relativists to accurately calculate the inspiral waveform for a given set of binary parameters. Cutler is investigating both kinds of error, using a mixture of Monte Carlo and analytic techniques. The analysis is made difficult by the fact that much of the interesting information is encoded in small, post-Newtonian pieces of the waveform. There are three principal motivations for the above research. First, it provides guidance to experimentalists as to which elements of the detector design are most crucial for doing astronomy. Second, it provides theorists a guide to the level of accuracy they must `shoot for' in solving the two-body problem. Third, the results allow one to judge the feasibility of potential astronomical applications of binary coalescences, such as using them as standard candles to determine the Hubble constant.

Effective start/end date8/1/957/31/98


  • National Science Foundation: $67,800.00


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