September 14, 2015 saw the dawn of gravitational wave astronomy with the detection of gravitational waves from the merger of a binary black hole. Since then, three other detections from merging black holes have been made. And, on October 16, 2017 a very special event was announced, the first detection of gravitational waves from the merger of two neutron stars! The event was special because the gravitational waves did not arrive alone. They were accompanied by electromagnetic radiation. Gravitational wave observations afford an unprecedented opportunity to probe some of the most energetic engines of the Universe, engines with objects where gravity has the strongest grip: black holes and neutron stars. Mining this information requires state of the art computational modeling, data science and theory. The work of this award will be a vehicle for training and educating scientists at Georgia Tech in an exciting and growing field of astrophysics. Graduate students and postdocs will gain experience in high performance computing and data analysis connected to multi-messenger astrophysics. The experience will further the careers of young researchers participating in the effort, acquiring valuable skills that are in demand in a broad range of professions. The detections of gravitational waves have generated an excitement that is palpable. The number of undergraduate students interested in engaging in gravitational wave astrophysics research is becoming too large to handle with traditional setups. This grant paves the way for undergraduate students at Georgia Tech to participate in projects in this exciting field.
The science in this project involves computational modeling to enhance the understanding of the late inspiral and merger of compact object binaries as sources of gravitational and electromagnetic radiation. The focus will be on the role that these binaries play as sources of gravitational and, when neutron stars are involved, electromagnetic radiation. The projects address astrophysics and gravitational wave physics in the strong non-linear regime, where an accurate characterization of dynamical gravity is required. The numerical relativity work is designed to inform future more sensitive gravitational wave observations about the details of the path followed by compact object binaries into their final state. The research is organized into two areas. The first will focus on simulations involving intermediate mass black holes. The effort will also involve simulations of neutron star -- neutron star and neutron star -- black hole mergers. Second, dynamical horizons and numerical relativity will be used to investigate the issue of the final state, namely the approach to the final black hole. The focus will be on the phase when the common dynamical horizon first form in binary black hole mergers. The no-hair theorem will be tested using the multipoles of the dynamical horizon. This award is co-funded by the Gravitational Physics program from the Physics Division and the Astronomy and Astrophysics Grants program from the Division of Astronomical Sciences in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.