Institute for Advanced Study/Princeton University
Anatomy of a gravitational wave detection
The Advanced LIGO and VIRGO observatories reported the detection of several gravitational wave events in their first and second observing runs from 2015 to 2017. These discoveries have given us a new glimpse into the population of compact stellar objects, and raised several new astrophysical questions that will only be resolved by discovering more events. The detections were only possible due to sophisticated analyses of noisy strain data that were historically conducted within the collaboration. Recently, we developed an entirely independent analysis of the data from LIGO’s first observing run, which incorporated several techniques to rigorously control systematics inherent in the data. This analysis enabled us to identify a new binary black-hole merger, GW151216, which is the highest spinning event reported to date, and is among the farthest ones. In this talk, I will introduce the astrophysical context of the existing and new detections, and provide a birds-eye view of the process used to make these discoveries.