AS4: Gravitational wave astronomy

Module title: Gravitational wave astronomy (AS4)

Module convenors:

Ilya Mandel (Birmingham)

Module website

This decade is likely to see the first direct detections of gravitational waves, one of the earliest predictions of the general theory of relativity. Observations of gravitational waves will open up a new observational window on the universe. In this course, we will introduce the rich subject of gravitational waves: their astrophysical sources, detection strategies, data analysis issues, and inference.

We introduce gravitational waves in a phenomenological, order-of-magnitude approach that will not require prior experience with general relativity. We discuss astrophysical sources of gravitational waves across all wavelengths: compact-object binaries, binaries involving massive black holes, asymmetric rotating neutron stars, etc. We show how signal strengths and features can be crudely predicted with simple calculations from first principles, while also introducing more sophisticated techniques for understanding the expected signals, such as the post-Newtonian expansion, the self-force problem, and numerical relativity.

We discuss the history of searching for gravitational waves, from indirect detections via binary pulsar observations through earth-based interferometric detectors such as LIGO, Virgo, and GEO, and to the future promise of space-borne LISA and pulsar timing arrays. We describe data analysis challenges and solutions associated with searching for weak signals of a known shape buried in noise, such as optimal matched filtering. We introduce Bayesian techniques necessary to extract information about source parameters.

Finally, we describe some of the prospects for astrophysical and cosmological inferences from gravitational-wave astronomy in the next decade and beyond.

Academic year: 
2011-2012
Starts: 
10/01/2012 - 13:00