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Simulations of Compact Object Mergers in support of NCSA’s LIGO commitment

Eliu Huerta Escudero, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Black holes (BHs) and neutron stars (NSs) are the end points of stellar evolution. A wide variety of electromagnetic observations have confirmed their existence. However, observational evidence for the existence of binary black holes (BBHs) that merge within the age of the Universe remained concealed until September 14, 2015. That day, the last prediction of Einstein’s theory of general relativity was finally confirmed with the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors: a new type of radiation consisting of perturbations in the fabric of space-time that travel at the speed of light, and which contain information about the most powerful events in the Universe driven by strong gravitational interactions was finally detected. The progenitor of these GWs could not have been more remarkable: a binary system with the most massive stellar mass BHs ever detected coalesced to form a single BH sixty times more massive than the Sun.

Three months later, aLIGO repeated this feat, thereby establish GW astrophysics as a new field of research. The GW spectrum has revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos, and the quest for answers has just begun. aLIGO is currently carrying out its second observing run. Based on the detection rate reported in, and aLIGO’s improved sensitivity with respect to the first observing run, we expect to detect at least four new binary BH (BBH) mergers and possibly one binary NS (BNS) merger. NCSA’s Gravity Group is an active member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) that has committed to provide catalogs of numerical relativity (NR) simulations to validate the astrophysical origin of new events.

Furthermore, NCSA’s Gravity Group is spearheading the development of novel waveform models that describe the formation and coalescence of compact binary populations in dense stellar environments. Our second major commitment to LSC science is the development and implementation of these models in LIGO’s Algorithm Library (LAL). In order to meet these commitments and maintain our status as members of the LSC, we critically depend on the computational resources requested in this proposal. We provide a detailed description below as to why Blue Waters is uniquely suited to carry out these studies. The projects we describe in this proposal are timely and topical in the astrophysics community.