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Gravitational Waves at the AEI. Bernard Schutz. Themes. General relativity impacts astrophysics broadly today: black holes, neutron stars, gravitational lensing, cosmology, gravitational waves.

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Gravitational waves at the aei

Gravitational Waves at the AEI

Bernard Schutz


  • General relativity impacts astrophysics broadly today: black holes, neutron stars, gravitational lensing, cosmology, gravitational waves.

  • Our main interest is in gravitational waves and their sources, mainly black holes and neutron stars.

  • We are involved with detector development (GEO600, LIGO, LISA) and with numerical simulations of gravitational wave emission from black hole and neutron star collisions.

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity

Astrophysical relativity groups

Numerical Relativity (Rezzolla)

Simulations of black hole and neutron star dynamics, mergers

Prediction of gravitational wave-forms

~20 active scientists

Peyote and Belladonna clusters provide one of the most powerful computational facilities available to any numerical relativity group worldwide.

Gravitational Waves (Papa)

Astrophysics of GW sources

Data analysis for GEO, LIGO, and VIRGO detectors

Designing LISA analysis system

~15 active scientists

Merlin cluster, 1.3 Tflops peak speed, 18 TB of data storage. Expect to replace it this year with a facility 5 times as fast.

Einstein@Home project

Astrophysical Relativity Groups

Theoretical Gravitational Wave Physics (Chen)

Design of advanced detectors. Gravitational wave data analysis. 5 scientists.

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity

Gravitational wave detection
Gravitational Wave Detection

  • Gravitational waves are the most important prediction of Einstein that has not yet been verified by direct detection. The Hulse-Taylor pulsar system PSR1913+16 gives very strong indirect confirmation of the theory.

  • Gravitational waves carry huge energies, but they interact very weakly with matter. These properties make them ideal probes of some of the most interesting parts of the Universe, now that we have learned how to make sufficiently sensitive detectors.

  • Unlike in most of electromagnetic astronomy, gravitational waves will be observed coherently, following the phase of the wave. This is possible because of their relatively low frequencies (most interest is below 10 kHz). This makes detection strategies very different: instead of bolometric (energy) detection in hardware, gravitational wave detection will be by data analysis, in software.

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity

Gw physics across the spectrum

A chirping system is a GW

standard candle: if positionis known, distance can be inferred.

GW physics across the spectrum

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity


  • Gravitational waves have 2 independent polarisations, illustrated here by the motions of free “test” particles.

  • They follow the motions of the source projected on the sky.

  • Interferometers are linearly polarised detectors.

  • A measurement of the degree of circular polarisation determines the inclination of a simple binary orbit. If the orbit is more complex, as for strong spin-spin coupling, then the changes in polarisation tell what is happening to the orbit.

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity

Worldwide interferometer network
Worldwide Interferometer Network

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity

Large interferometers the 1 st generation
Large Interferometers: the 1st Generation

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity

Geo advanced technology
GEO: Advanced Technology

  • GEO beats disadvantage of shorter baseline with advanced technology for controlling noise and adjusting bandwidth.

  • GEO is the only 1st-gen detector that can go narrow-band; will do best all-sky pulsar searches.

  • GEO’s technology will be used to make the Advanced LIGO upgrade. GEO responsible for suspensions and lasers. Funded by Max Planck Society and PPARC.

  • GEO upgrade to GEO-HF, also now funded by Max Planck Society and PPARC, will happen end of this decade.

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity

Ligo performance in september 2005
LIGO performance in September 2005

S5 data taking run is underway: At Design Sensitivity for 18 months!

Binary Inspiral Range 11 Mpc!

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity

Data massive volume massive analysis

The LSC records hundreds of terabytes of data per year. Most of this is “housekeeping”. Signal data around 500 GB/y.

AEI responsible for pulsar searches, contributes to others

All-sky surveys for pulsars very demanding: Einstein@Home giving us 40 Tflops delivered, continuous.

LIGO and GEO have jointly developed data analysis software and are doing joint analysis of current data for upper limits.

New software have come from this:

Triana quick-look system (Cardiff)

Coherent demodulation code (AEI)

Hough-transform hierarchical methods for all-sky surveys (AEI)

Grid efforts increasing: GriPhyN, DataGrid, Triana/GridOneD

Data: Massive Volume, Massive Analysis

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity

Merlin cluster
Merlin Cluster of this is “housekeeping”. Signal data around 500 GB/y.

  • 180 dual-processor Athlon nodes

  • 1.6 GHz clock speed

  • 1.3 Tflop peak speed

  • Storage capacity 18 TB

Maria Alessandra Papa

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity

Observe from ground or space

Ground detectors of this is “housekeeping”. Signal data around 500 GB/y. –- Can only observe at f > 1 Hz because of gravity noise on Earth; can’t be screened.- Events are rare, catastrophic.- Likely: * neutron-star in-spiral (gamma-ray bursts?) * black-hole in-spiral * neutron stars- First detections are likely to be made from the ground.

Space detectors –- Required for f < 1 Hz- Many strong sources- Many known sources- Expected: * Massive BH mergers * Small BHs  larger ones * Known binaries - Genuine tests of general relativity are possible because of high S/N.

Observe from Ground or Space?

Detectors are complementary

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity

Gravitational waves at the aei
LISA of this is “housekeeping”. Signal data around 500 GB/y.

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity

Lisa in orbit
LISA in Orbit of this is “housekeeping”. Signal data around 500 GB/y.

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity

Lisa sources
LISA Sources of this is “housekeeping”. Signal data around 500 GB/y.

  • Supermassive black holes in galactic centers

  • Binary star systems in the Galaxy

LISA Organization

  • Joint ESA-NASA project (50-50 sharing)

  • Development guided by LISA International Science Team (LIST); 3 of the 14 European members are from AEI.

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity

Gravitational waves from black holes
Gravitational Waves from Black Holes of this is “housekeeping”. Signal data around 500 GB/y.

  • Generically, there are 3 regimes in which black holes radiate:

    • Orbital in-spiral: post-Newtonian approximations or point-particle orbits.

    • Plunge/merger after the last stable orbit: numerical simulations or point-particle orbits.

    • Ring-down of the disturbed black hole as it settles down to a Kerr hole: perturbation theory of black holes.

(Kip Thorne)

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity

Plunge and merger radiation
Plunge and Merger Radiation of this is “housekeeping”. Signal data around 500 GB/y.

  • In the point-particle limit, we can calculate the orbit and the radiation reaction. But for two holes of comparable mass, we need numerical simulations. This is a major activity at the AEI, as well as at many other centers.

  • GR is complex. First-order formulations of the vacuum field equations can contain 50 variables or more at each grid point. The largest supercomputers are still not big enough. Coordinate choices are very difficult and codes are so far not as robust as we would like.

  • Recent breakthroughs at the AEI and in 4 other groups around the world have produced first full orbit simulations, merger simulations, believable waveform predictions. But much work still to be done.

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity

Lisa data analysis
LISA Data Analysis of this is “housekeeping”. Signal data around 500 GB/y.

  • ESA and NASA are now developing the LISA DA system, much genuine research needed to solve source confusion problem.

  • AEI played a leading role in specifying the goals of the system, and is now helping to coordinate the European collaboration: 50 institutes in 7 countries.

  • At AEI we will increasingly concentrate effort in this area, expect to make 4-5 postdoctoral appointments in the next few years, support several PhD students.

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity

Imprs gravitational waves
IMPRS Gravitational Waves of this is “housekeeping”. Signal data around 500 GB/y.

  • Started this year, jointly with AEI/Hannover.

  • Unique: only course in world where students get postgrad courses in detectors, theory, data analysis, and numerical work.

  • Will take in ~5 students per year for a 3-year award.

  • See AEI website for application procedure.

AEI Ferienkurs: Astrophysical Relativity