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Gravitational Waves and the Death-Spiral of Compact Binaries

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Gravitational waves from the final inspiral of binary systems containing black holes or neutron stars are expected to be detectable by current ground-based interferometric gravitational-wave observatories, and by the proposed space interferometer LISA . We review the current status of theoretical work, based primarily on post-Newtonian approximations, to understand inspirals and their waveforms with high precision. Through matched filtering techniques, it will be possible to measure key astrophysical parameters of the inspiraling systems, such as masses and spins, as well as to probe modifications of general relativity, such as scalar-tensor alternatives or theories with a massive graviton. Post-Newtonian techniques have also led to an improved prediction of the “kick” velocity imparted to a black hole formed from the inspiral and merger of two compact bodies, as a result of the asymmetric emission of gravitational waves. Finally, we discuss how LISA may be able to do “black hole spectroscopy”, by detecting and resolving the quasinormal “ringdown” gravitational waves from newly formed massive black holes.

This talk is part of the Cavendish Astrophysics Seminars series.

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