Studying cosmological sources of gravitational waves

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


This dissertation presents two aspects of the study of cosmology through gravitational waves. The first aspect involves direct observation of past eras of the Universe's formation. The detection of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation was one of the most important cosmological discoveries of the last century. With the development of interferometric gravitational wave detectors, we may be in a position to detect its gravitational equivalent in this century. The Cosmic Gravitational Background is likely to be isotropic and stochastic, making it difficult to distinguish from instrument noise. The contribution from the gravitational background can be isolated by cross-correlating the signals from two or more independent detectors. Here we extend previous studies that considered the cross-correlation of two Michelson channels by calculating the optimal signal to noise ratio that can be achieved by combining the full set of interferometry variables that are available with a six link triangular interferometer. We apply our results to the detector design described in the Big Bang Observer mission concept study and find that it could detect a background with Omega gw > 2.2 x 10 -¹⁷. The second aspect consists in studying astrophysical sources that detain crucial information on the Universe's evolution. We focus our attention on black holes binary sytems. These systems contain information on the rate of merger between galaxies, which in turn is key to unlock the mystery of inflation. Pulsar timing is a promising technique for detecting low frequency sources of gravitational waves, such as massive and supermassive black hole binaries. Here we show that the timing data from an array of pulsars can be used to recover the physical parameters describing an individual black hole binary to good accuracy, even for moderately strong signals. A novel aspect of our analysis is that we include the distance to each pulsar as a search parameter, which allows us to utilize the full gravitational wave signal. This doubles the signal power, improves the sky location determination by an order of magnitude, and allows us to extract the mass and the distance to the black hole binary.




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