Gravitational-wave observations of binary black holes—future discoveries and the physics of binary evolution

Thurs 14 February 2019 @12:00 PM, level 7, David Caro Building
Dr Christopher Berrry Northwestern

Email:  christopher.berry[at]


The gravitational waves observed by LIGO and Virgo encode unique information about their sources. I will explain how we go from the observed signal to making inferences about the source’s parameters, such as a black hole’s mass and spin. These properties are an insight into the processes that forged these compact objects. With a growing catalogue of observations, we can begin to constrain the properties of the population. This can help to pin down the uncertain physics of binary evolution. Making a binary black hole involves many processes that are currently poorly understood, such as stellar mass loss rates and the kicks imparted in supernova explosions. Once we have large numbers of detections, as expected following the upcoming observing runs, we can use mass and merger rate measurements to constrain the parameters describing these processes to a few percent. Adding in further information, such as the evolution of the merger rate with redshift will provide an even more detailed picture of the physics of binary evolution.

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