LIGO Document P1900003-v1

Low-Latency Searches for Gravitational Waves and their Electromagnetic Counterparts with Advanced LIGO and Virgo (PhD dissertation)

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For the first time in history, advanced detectors are available to observe the stretching and squeezing of space—gravitational waves—from violent astrophysical events. This opens up the prospect of joint detections with instruments of traditional astronomy, creating the new field of multi-messenger astrophysics. Joint detections allow us to form a coherent picture of the unfolding event as told by the various channels of information: mass and energy dynamics from gravitational waves, charged particle environments (along with magnetic field and specific element environments) from electromagnetic radiation, and thermonuclear reactions/relativistic particle outflows from neutrinos.

In this work, I motivate low-latency electromagnetic and neutrino followup of sources known to emit gravitational radiation in the sensitivity band of ground-based interferometric detectors, Advanced LIGO and Advanced Virgo. To this end, I describe the low-latency infrastructure I developed with colleagues to select and enable successful follow-up of the first few gravitational-wave candidate events in history, including the first binary black hole merger, named GW150914, and binary neutron star coalescence, named GW170817, from the first and second observing runs.

As a review, I outline the theory behind gravitational waves and explain how the advanced detectors, low-latency searches, and data quality vetting procedures work. To highlight the newness of the field, I also share results from an offline search for a more speculative source of gravitational waves, intersecting cosmic strings, from the second observing run.

Finally, I address how LIGO/Virgo is prepared to adapt to challenges that will arise during the upcoming third observing run, an era that will be marked by near-weekly binary black hole candidate events and near-monthly binary neutron star candidate events. To handle this load, we made several improvements to our low-latency infrastructure, including a new, streamlined candidate event selection process, expansions I helped develop for temporal coincidence searches with electromagnetic/neutrino triggers, and data quality products on source classification and probability of astrophysical origin to provide to our observing partners for potential compact binary coalescences. These measures will further our prospects for multi-messenger astrophysics and increase our science returns.

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PhD dissertation, The University of Maryland, 2019

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