This project continues the development and use of advanced software algorithms to search for gravitational waves - ripples in spacetime predicted by Einstein's theory of gravity - in data from the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). These are a predicted signature of some of the most energetic events in the universe, including neutron stars and black holes that orbit one another and spiral inwards and collide. The detection of gravitational waves from such collisions will allow a direct confirmation of this prediction of Einstein's theory, and will also allow measurement of the properties of the neutron stars or black holes whose collision generated the waves. Such properties are often difficult to measure indirectly through present observations with telescopes and satellites. The broader impacts of this proposal will include the training of undergraduate students in the nascent field of gravitational wave astronomy, and dissemination of the first results of that field to the broader public through short videos and public talks.
The specific problem this proposal will address is the tuning and deployment of an offline, matched-filter search for compact binary coalescing sources for non-spinning and aligned-spin systems, and the development and testing of a search for precessing spin systems. This will be done using the PyCBC pipeline toolkit of which the PI is a developer, and the tuning studies and investigation of precessing searches will each test the detection sensitivity of their respective searches on Mock Data Challenge (MDC) data collected from earlier LIGO running and engineering runs. These detection sensitivity studies will in turn be used to decide on tuning choices, and for precessing searches, whether overall detection efficiency is improved by searching over a precessing waveform template parameter space. Broader impacts will be achieved by involving undergraduates in this research both locally at ACU, and by traveling to the Albert Einstein Institute in Hannover, Germany. Additionally, public outreach will continue the sequence of short, educational videos that the PI and his students have already made on relativity.