Source modelling at the dawn of gravitational-wave astronomy

Davide Gerosa

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Abstract

The age of gravitational-wave astronomy has begun. Gravitational waves are propagating spacetime perturbations ("ripples in the fabric of space-time") predicted by Einstein's theory of General Relativity. These signals propagate at the speed of light and are generated by powerful astrophysical events, such as the merger of two black holes and supernova explosions. The first detection of gravitational waves was performed in 2015 with the LIGO interferometers. This constitutes a tremendous breakthrough in fundamental physics and astronomy: it is not only the first direct detection of such elusive signals, but also the first irrefutable observation of a black-hole binary system. The future of gravitational-wave astronomy is bright and loud: the LIGO experiments will soon be joined by a network of ground-based interferometers; the space mission eLISA has now been fully approved by the European Space Agency with a proof-of-concept mission called LISA Pathfinder launched in 2015. Gravitational-wave observations will provide unprecedented tests of gravity as well as a qualitatively new window on the Universe. Careful theoretical modelling of the astrophysical sources of gravitational-waves is crucial to maximize the scientific outcome of the detectors. In this Thesis, we present several advances on gravitational-wave source modelling, studying in particular: (i) the precessional dynamics of spinning black-hole binaries; (ii) the astrophysical consequences of black-hole recoils; and (iii) the formation of compact objects in the framework of scalar-tensor theories of gravity. All these phenomena are deeply characterized by a continuous interplay between General Relativity and astrophysics: despite being a truly relativistic messenger, gravitational waves encode details of the astrophysical formation and evolution processes of their sources. We work out signatures and predictions to extract such information from current and future observations. At the dawn of a revolutionary era, our work contributes to turning the promise of gravitational-wave astronomy into reality....
Original languageEnglish
Qualification???thesis.qualification.phd???
Awarding Institution
  • University of Cambridge
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Sperhake, Ulrich, Supervisor, External person
Place of PublicationCambridge
Publisher
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016

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