This award funds a research project under the direction of Professor Wolfgang Tichy at Florida Atlantic University.
The NSF's LIGO gravitational wave detectors are among a number of new facilities all over the world which are designed to directly detect and measure gravitational waves. These waves will come from a variety of astrophysical sources and will open a new window to the universe. One of the most promising sources for these detectors are the inspirals and mergers of compact-object binaries (i.e., systems containing black holes or neutron stars). As the two objects get close, fully non-linear numerical simulations of the Einstein equations are required to make predictions about the final part of the inspiral and subsequent merger. This project will address several key physics issues such as: (i) How important is neutron star spin in the evolution of neutron star binaries? (ii) How can we best join a very long post-Newtonian inspiral waveform and a numerically obtained waveform from a compact object binary? (iii) Up to which frequency can post-Newtonian waveforms be trusted, and how does this frequency depend on spins and mass ratios? (iv) Can we obtain significantly better waveforms if we use more realistic initial data with less artificial "junk" radiation?
This project is also envisioned to have significant broader impacts. Part of the proposed research will be carried out in close collaboration with the relativity group at the University of Jena in Germany. The planned research will involve at least one graduate student at FAU and one postdoc at the University of Jena. Thus the planned research will have educational benefits for the students and postdocs involved. They will not only learn about the science related to this project, but also more broadly about programming supercomputers and data management. Professor Tichy also intends to give public lectures on his research, and develop new course curricula based on research results.