The Computational Challenge of Gravitational-Wave Astronomy
Gravitational physics is entering a new era driven by observation that will begin once gravitational-wave interferometers make their first detections. In the universe, gravitational waves are produced during violent events such as the merger of two black holes. The detection of these waves, which are oscillations in spacetime itself, is a formidable undertaking, requiring innovative engineering, powerful data analysis tools and careful theoretical modeling. Here at Tech, we are pushing the boundaries between theoretical source modeling and data analysis in order to aid in the detection of gravitational waves by predicting their theoretical signature and interpreting the source of gravitational waves once detection becomes routine. The computational challenges occur on both sides of the boundary, predicting and characterizing the source using numerical relativity is a high-performance problem for each waveform studied. On the other side, the analyses of these events from the detector is a massively parallel problem stretching to cover the full parameter space of the source. Taken together, we can determine where is the best use of our resources to prepare for the advent of gravitational-wave astronomy.
The figure shown is a contour plot of reach versus the orientation of a black-hole spin. The contours label how far away in Mpc we can see the binary black holes merge if they were detected by LIGO at a signal-to-noise ratio of 5.5. For further details, this figure is part of a paper recently submitted to Physical Review D in collaboration between numerical relativists at GT (Healy, London and Shoemaker) and data analysts at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (Fischetti, Mohapatra and Prof. Cadonati).