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Constraining the parameters of GW150914 and GW170104 with numerical relativity surrogates

Kumar, Prayush and Blackman, Jonathan and Field, Scott E. and Scheel, Mark and Galley, Chad R. and Boyle, Michael and Kidder, Lawrence E. and Pfeiffer, Harald P. and Szilágyi, Béla and Teukolsky, Saul A. (2019) Constraining the parameters of GW150914 and GW170104 with numerical relativity surrogates. Physical Review D, 99 (12). Art. No. 124005. ISSN 2470-0010. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.99.124005.

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Gravitational-wave (GW) detectors have begun to observe coalescences of heavy black hole binaries (M ≳ 50  M_⊙) at a consistent pace for the past few years. Accurate models of gravitational waveforms are essential for unbiased and precise estimation of source parameters, such as masses and spins of component black holes. Recently developed surrogate models based on high-accuracy numerical relativity (NR) simulations provide ideal models for constraining physical parameters describing these heavy black hole merger events. In this paper, we first demonstrate the viability of these multi-modal surrogate models as reliable parameter estimation tools. We show that within a fully Bayesian framework, NR surrogates can help extract additional information from GW observations that is inaccessible to traditional models. We demonstrate this by analyzing a set of synthetic signals with NR surrogate templates and comparing against contemporary approximate models. We then consider the case of two of the earliest binary black holes detected by the LIGO observatories, GW150914 and GW170104. We reanalyze their data with the generically precessing NR-based surrogate model and freely provide the resulting posterior samples as supplemental material. We find that our refined analysis is able to extract information from sub-dominant GW harmonics in data, and therefore better resolve the degeneracy in measuring source luminosity distance and orbital inclination for both events. Our analysis estimates the sources of both events to be 20%–25% further away than was previously estimated. Our analysis also constrains their orbital orientations more tightly around face-on or face-off configurations than before. Additionally, for GW150914 we constrain the effective inspiral spin χ_(eff) more tightly around zero. This work is one of the first to unambiguously extract sub-dominant GW mode information from real events. It is also a first step toward eliminating the approximations used in semi-analytic waveform models from GW parameter estimation. It strongly motivates that NR surrogates be extended to cover more of the binary black hole parameter space.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Blackman, Jonathan0000-0002-7113-0289
Kidder, Lawrence E.0000-0001-5392-7342
Pfeiffer, Harald P.0000-0001-9288-519X
Teukolsky, Saul A.0000-0001-9765-4526
Additional Information:© 2019 American Physical Society. Received 25 September 2018; published 7 June 2019. We gratefully acknowledge support for this research at Cornell from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation and NSF Grant No. PHY-1606654; at Caltech from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation and NSF Grant No. PHY-1404569; at CITA from NSERC of Canada, the Ontario Early Researcher Awards Program, the Canada Research Chairs Program, and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research; and at Princeton from NSF Grant No. PHY-1305682 and the Simons Foundation. S. E. F. was partially supported by NSF Grant No. PHY-1806665. P. K. would like to thank FAPESP Grant No. 2016/01343-7 for hospitality during his visits to ICTP-SAIFR, where part of this work was completed. This research has made use of data, software and/or web tools obtained from the LIGO Open Science Center (, a service of LIGO Laboratory, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, and the Virgo Collaboration. LIGO is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation. Virgo is funded by the French Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the Italian Istituto Nazionale della Fisica Nucleare (INFN), and the Dutch Nikhef, with contributions by Polish and Hungarian institutes.
Group:Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics, Astronomy Department
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Sherman Fairchild FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)UNSPECIFIED
Ontario Early Researcher AwardUNSPECIFIED
Canada Research Chairs ProgramUNSPECIFIED
Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR)UNSPECIFIED
Simons FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de Sao Paulo (FAPESP)2016/01343-7
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)UNSPECIFIED
Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN)UNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:12
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20180830-092941715
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:89302
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:30 Aug 2018 16:37
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 00:34

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