LIGO Document P1500114-v3

Testing The Strong Field Dynamics of General Relativity Using Compact Binary Systems

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Einstein's General Theory of Relativity (GR) has been well tested in the weak field regime over the past century. However, such tests have not been carried out in the highly dynamical and inherently non-linear strong field regime.
Recent advancements in ground based gravitational wave detectors, (e.g., Advanced LIGO, VIRGO), will allow us probe this regime of general relativity by investigating gravitational waves produced by astrophysical systems with strong gravitational fields such as compact binary coalescences. While current search techniques utilize standard GR waveforms to identify weak GW signals in the presence of noisy data, alternative theories of gravity predict signals that differ significantly from GR. We investigate our ability to find non-GR effects in detected waveforms of an astrophysical source in an alternative theory of gravity by introducing an arbitrary parameter, alpha_nGR, to modify standard GR waveform features, such as ringdown frequency, merger frequency, and amplitude. We then perform statistical methods such as matched filtering and bayesian inference to quantify how well future detectors will be able to distinguish between the gravitational waveforms in the event that GR is not the complete theory of gravity.
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