CAREER: Enabling Multimessenger Astrophysics with Real-Time Gravitational Wave Detection

Project: Research project

Project Details


In the last decades, astrophysicists and astronomers have studied the Universe for clues about what causes some of the most energetic transient events. It has long been thought that truly extreme objects such as black holes and neutron stars are responsible. Advanced instruments spanning the electromagnetic spectrum have provided a wealth of information regarding the transient Universe; however, many observations are unable to directly probe the dynamics of the systems in question. General relativity provides a way to map out the dynamics of massive, dense objects from a distance by encoding the motion as ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves. The principal investigator of this project will lead an effort within the LIGO Scientific Collaboration to detect transient gravitational waves from the merger of black holes and neutron stars in real-time, enabling prompt multi-wavelength follow-up observations that can shed new light onto the origin of transients. Discoveries will be relayed to a network of follow-up observatories so that scientists can learn as much as possible about these events before they fade away. This research will increase understanding of the fundamental nature of space, time and the properties of exotic states of matter and energy that are not accessible to Earth-based laboratories.

The LIGO Collaboration has built highly sensitive laser interferometric gravitational wave receivers in Hanford, WA and Livingston, LA that will measure to extra-galactic distances the minute oscillations of space-time caused by, for example, the merger of two neutron stars. Data from these observatories will be streamed in real-time to supercomputing facilities across the U.S where thousands of computing nodes will integrate millions of unique physical models of black hole and neutron star systems, known as templates, with the data in real time. Advanced signal processing techniques and software co-developed by the PI will infer the presence of a signal from any of the models within seconds of the signal arriving at Earth. Requiring signals to be observed simultaneously in multiple geographically separated gravitational wave detectors will allow the position of the source to be localized as well as provide confidence that the signal is not of terrestrial origin. The best-fit parameters and estimate of the event significance will be ingested into the gravitational-wave candidate event database where alerts to external partners will be issued as well as real-time correlation with external triggers such as gamma-ray bursts through the Gamma-ray Coordinates Network (GCN).

Effective start/end date6/1/155/31/20


  • National Science Foundation: $400,000.00


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