Sources for gravitational wave astronomy

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Mathematics


With the first generation of highly sensitive gravitational wave detectors operating at design sensitivity, this is an exciting time for general relativity and astrophysics. With upgrades to advanced detectors planned, and the space based detector LISA due for launch, in the next decade, we expect to soon be able to use gravitational wave data to learn more about the Universe. Given its potential for probing otherwise dark or hidden processes, gravitational wave astronomy promises to change our understanding of, in particular, black holes and neutron stars significantly. The information gleaned will be complementary to that from electromagnetic observations. However, we need to improve our current models of the predicted sources. Better models are needed not only to detect the gravitational waves in the first place, but also to probe as much physics as possible. This research proposal builds on the Southampton General Relativity Group's expertise in black hole, neutron star and gravitational wave astrophysics, and is aimed at developing a deeper understanding of how gravitational waves are emitted by black holes and neutron stars, and how the signals can be used to provide information about the involved physics. The proposed programme is of a highly interconnected nature with four different themes requiring similar methodology (e.g. general relativistic perturbation theory or numerical simulations) and physics input (e.g. superfluidity, magnetic fields or gravitational radiation reaction). The overall aim is to develop significantly improved models for gravitational waves from a range of astrophysical scenarios involving compact objects. Neutron stars are unique astrophysical laboratories, the modelling of which requires much poorly known physics. In order to investigate their properties, one must combine supranuclear physics with magnetohydrodynamics, a description of superfluids and superconductors, potentially exotic phases of matter like a deconfined quark-gluon plasma and, of course, general relativity. Since they can radiate gravitational waves in a variety of ways, achieving a better understanding of neutron star dynamics is one of the key aims of this proposal. To do this we will carry out three parallel projects, focused on neutron star oscillations, relevant astrophysical scenarios and fully nonlinear simulations of neutron star dynamics. The proposed work is not only relevant for gravitational wave physics, it will also provide useful insights into problems relevant for electromagnetic observations. We aim to contruct accurate models of magnetic star pulsations that can be tested against recent observations of oscillations associated with magnetar giant flares. Our studies of rotational effects should shed light on the pulsar glitches, while the nonlinear simulations will help improve our models of neutron star mergers and proto-neutron star evolution. Inspiralling binaries are intrinsically the strongest sources of gravitational waves in the Universe. In particular, there are exciting prospects for LISA to detect the radiative inspiral of compact objects into massive black holes in galactic centres. Gravitational waveforms from such events are extremely efficient probes of the strong gravity near the massive black hole, and promise to allow accurate tests of gravitational theory in its most extreme domain. In order to realise this promise we need a good theoretical understanding of relativistic radiation-reaction effects. Recent progress on the problem of the gravitational self-force provides significant momentum for work in this area. In this project we will continue to explore the science of these fascinating sources.


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Description Improved understanding of the extreme physics associated with neutron stars.
Exploitation Route Work impacts on plans for future electromagnetic and gravitational-wave observations.
Sectors Education

Description Postdoctoral fellowship
Amount $90,000 (CAD)
Organisation Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) 
Sector Public
Country Canada
Start 10/2011 
End 09/2013