Limits of Astrophysics with Gravitational-Wave Backgrounds

Thomas Callister, Letizia Sammut, Shi Qiu, Ilya Mandel, Eric Thrane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
159 Downloads (Pure)


The recent Advanced LIGO detection of gravitational waves from the binary black hole GW150914 suggests there exists a large population of merging binary black holes in the Universe. Although most are too distant to be individually resolved by advanced detectors, the superposition of gravitational waves from many unresolvable binaries is expected to create an astrophysical stochastic background. Recent results from the LIGO and Virgo collaborations show that this astrophysical background is within reach of Advanced LIGO. In principle, the binary black hole background encodes interesting astrophysical properties, such as the mass distribution and redshift distribution of distant binaries. However, we show that this information will be difficult to extract with the current configuration of advanced detectors (and using current data analysis tools). Additionally, the binary black hole background also constitutes a foreground that limits the ability of advanced detectors to observe other interesting stochastic background signals, for example from cosmic strings or phase transitions in the early Universe. We quantify this effect.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysical Review X
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

11 pages, 6 figures, published in PRX. Minor updates to match published version


  • gr-qc
  • astro-ph.HE


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