Advancing the Search for Gravitational Waves with Next-Generation Citizen Science

by Michael Zevin.


martin-zevin

Michael Zevin is a third-year doctoral student in astrophysics at Northwestern University. He is a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, and in addition to citizen science and LIGO detector characterization his research focuses on utilizing gravitational-wave detections to learn about binary stellar evolution and the environments in which compact binaries form.

With the first observations of gravitational waves and the discovery of binary black hole systems, LIGO has unveiled a new domain of the universe to explore. Though the recent signals persisted in LIGO’s sensitive band for a second or less, these last words of the binary that were spewed into the cosmos provided an unprecedented test of general relativity and insight into the progenitor stars that subsequently formed into the colliding black holes. However, the hunt is far from over. With LIGO’s second observing run underway, we can look forward to many more gravitational-wave signals, and as is true with any new mechanism for studying the cosmos, we can also expect to find the unexpected.

The extreme sensitivity required to make such detections was acquired through decades of developing methods and machinery to isolate the sensitive components of LIGO from non-gravitational-wave disturbances. Nonetheless, as a noise-dominated experiment, LIGO is still susceptible to Continue reading

Tilting laser beams in LISA

by Michael Tröbs.


Michael Troebs in the lab

Michael Tröbs in the lab. Michael Tröbs is an experimental physicist at Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (AEI). The LISA optical bench test bed was built in collaboration with Airbus DS and University of Glasgow. At AEI Michael is responsible for the project.

A testbed to experimentally investigate tilt-to-length coupling for LISA, a gravitational-wave detector in space.

The planned space-based gravitational-wave detector LISA will consist of three satellites in a triangle with million kilometer long laser arms. This constellation will orbit the Sun, following the Earth. LISA is expected to be laser shot-noise limited in its most sensitive frequency band (in the Millihertz range). The second largest contribution to the noise budget is the coupling from laser beam tilt to the interferometric length measurement, which we will call tilt-to-length (TTL) coupling in the following.

How does tilt-to-length coupling come about? Continue reading

Coating thermal noise research for LIGO-India

Maya Kinley-Hanlon — an undergraduate student in the Department of Physics at the American University in Washington, DC — tells us more about her group’s work on optical coatings for LIGO-India.


Maya Kinley-Hanlon is a PhD candidate in the Department of Physics at the American University in Washington, DC.

Maya Kinley-Hanlon is an undergraduate student in the Department of Physics at the American University in Washington, DC.

Our CQG paper describes measurements of optical coatings on silica glass substrates to determine if storing the LIGO optics for many years before installing them in India will cause any problems.  The coatings are known to be fairly robust in their optical properties, but as is always the case with LIGO optics, no one has any real idea about the thermal noise properties.  Since thermal noise from the coatings is expected to be a limiting noise source in the LIGO detectors, knowing if storing the optics could cause a problem is an important issue.  I worked on this Continue reading

TianQin: a space-borne gravitational wave detector

Attendees at the third workshop on the TianQin science mission

Attendees at the third workshop on the TianQin science mission

Gravitational waves can paint a completely new picture of the Universe. Promising advances in technology may make it possible to detect the minute wobbling of spacetime in the next few years. Estimates show that ground-based gravitational wave detectors, such as Advanced LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) or Advanced Virgo will probably see several hundred events by 2020. These ground-based instruments will be complemented by space-borne detectors. These are sensitive to a much richer set of sources, including compact binary star systems in our own Milky Way, supermassive black holes consuming stars, and binary supermassive black holes in distant galactic nuclei. Dozens of proposals have been put forward for space-borne gravitational wave detectors, among which the most studied are LISA (Laser Interferometric Space Antenna) and its evolved version, eLISA. The European space agency has picked “Gravitational Universe” as the science theme for its 3rd large science mission L3; if chosen, eLISA might be launched in 2034.

In our paper, we describe the preliminary concept of a newly proposed space-borne gravitational wave detector, TianQin. In old Chinese legend, the lives of the gods in heaven are very similar to the lives of people on the ground (apart from the fact that they can fly, perform other miracles, and are presumably much happier). They also play music using instruments such as a Chinese zither. A zither on the ground is called “Qin”, and one in heaven is “TianQin”. Bearing this name, our experiment is metaphorically seen as Continue reading

Classifying noise transients in advanced gravitational-wave detectors


Read the full article in Classical and Quantum Gravity (Open Access):
Classification methods for noise transients in advanced gravitational-wave detectors   Jade Powell, Daniele Trifirò, Elena Cuoco, Ik Siong Heng and Marco Cavaglià 2015 Class. Quantum Grav. 32 215012

arXiv:1505.01299


Jade Powell

Jade Powell is a PhD student at the University of Glasgow

A careful analysis of detector noise is necessary to determine whether a real gravitational-wave signal exists in the data of Advanced LIGO and Virgo. Instrumental and environmental disturbances can produce non-astrophysical triggers in science data, so called “glitches”. These glitches may reduce the duty cycle of the interferometers, and they could lead to a false detection if they occur simultaneously in multiple detectors. In the initial science runs of LIGO and Virgo a glitch could be classified by looking at an image of its time series waveform or spectrogram. This proved to be a slow and inefficient method for characterising a large number of glitches. To solve this problem the detector characterization team proposed a challenge for the fast automatic classification of Continue reading

Spectral analysis in resonant interferometry: following the traces of thermal deformation

How researchers from the LIGO scientific collaboration use signals generated from higher-order mode resonances to glean crucial information about the thermal state of their interferometers.

Chris Mueller

Chris Mueller received his Ph.D. in physics with Guido Mueller at the University of Florida and has since moved to industry.

Imagine for a moment that you’ve accepted the challenge of trying to make the first direct detection of gravitational waves. To achieve such a daunting task you’ll need to devise an instrument capable of measuring a change in length of just 10-19 m over a distance of several km. At these length scales everything matters; the ground is vibrating, air molecules are buzzing around, and the molecules which make up the test masses of your detector are quivering. This challenge is precisely Continue reading

Designing the future of gravitational wave astronomy: Choosing the best sites for the next generation of gravitational wave detectors

Fig 1

A new view of the world map, with the black areas indicating allowable sites for building future generation gravitational wave detectors. The other coloured areas are excluded for various reasons.

Imagine you could time travel to decades after the first detections of gravitational waves by ground-based interferometers: someone has already had the call from Stockholm, a series of amazing gravitational wave discoveries have been reported and the watching world is going wild about gravitational wave astronomy.  Such momentous events would certainly trigger the demand for even more sensitive and powerful gravitational wave detectors to drive forward this exciting new field of observational astronomy. But the immediate question would be: where to put these multi-billion dollar instruments?  Future generations of gravitational wave detectors, like the proposed European Einstein Telescope, would be very expensive to build, so choosing the most favourable sites in which to build them will be a crucial issue. Our work, published in Classical and Quantum Gravity, explores the question of Continue reading

New focus issue: Advanced interferometric gravitational wave detectors

Peter Shawhan and Marie-Anne Bizouard

Peter Shawhan is an Associate Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland, USA. His primary research area is in the analysis of data from gravitational wave detectors and connections with astrophysical events.
Marie-Anne Bizouard is a research fellow at CNRS, Laboratoire de l’Accélérateur Linéaire, Orsay, France. She is an experimental physicist working on gravitational wave searches with ground based interferometric detectors.

The quest to detect gravitational waves directly has seen great advances over the past five decades, with the earlier resonant “bar” detectors being surpassed in sensitivity by large laser interferometers in the last decade.  The first generation of interferometric detectors proved the viability of the approach, progressively improving sensing and control techniques and running up against the fundamental limitations of their designs.  Along the way, many searches for gravitational wave signals were carried out and published, but none achieved the milestone of detecting a clear gravitational-wave signal.

All of that is about to change.  The lessons learned from the first full-scale interferometric detectors fed into the design of advanced detectors which are now being constructed and commissioned and will soon begin collecting data.  Higher laser power, Continue reading

Noisy surface charges on gravitational wave detector optics

Paul Campsie

Paul Campsie completed his Ph.D. in the Institute for Gravitational Research at the University of Glasgow. He now works as a Product & Test Engineer for Freescale Semiconductor.

A direct measurement of the fluctuating force noise created by surface charge on dielectrics

It has been known that future interferometric gravitational wave detectors could have their low frequency sensitivity limited by excess surface charges on the detector optics. Though it is suspected that the limiting effects of this noise source have been observed in initial detectors, this was never directly verified because there was no measurement of the charge on the optic.

In our recent CQG article we present a direct measurement of the fluctuating force noise created by excess surface charges (charging noise) on a dielectric. This measurement is Continue reading