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Published August 12, 2013 | Submitted
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Determining the Hubble constant from gravitational wave observations of merging compact binaries


Recent observations have accumulated compelling evidence that some short gamma-ray bursts (SGRBs) are associated with the mergers of neutron star (NS) binaries. This would indicate that the SGRB event is associated with a gravitational-wave (GW) signal corresponding to the final inspiral of the compact binary. In addition, the radioactive decay of elements produced in NS binary mergers may result in transients visible in the optical and infrared with peak luminosities on hours-days timescales. Simultaneous observations of the inspiral GWs and signatures in the electromagnetic band may allow us to directly and independently determine both the luminosity distance and redshift to a binary. These standard sirens (the GW analog of standard candles) have the potential to provide an accurate measurement of the low-redshift Hubble flow. In addition, these systems are absolutely calibrated by general relativity, and therefore do not experience the same set of astrophysical systematics found in traditional standard candles, nor do the measurements rely on a distance ladder. We show that 15 observable GW and EM events should allow the Hubble constant to be measured with 5% precision using a network of detectors that includes advanced LIGO and Virgo. Measuring 30 beamed GW-SGRB events could constrain H_0 to better than 1%. When comparing to standard Gaussian likelihood analysis, we find that each event's non-Gaussian posterior in H_0 helps reduce the overall measurement errors in H_0 for an ensemble of NS binary mergers.

Additional Information

We thank Curt Cutler, Phil Marshall, and Michele Vallisneri for very useful discussions on selection effects and biases. We thank Vicky Scowcroft for discussion on H_0 measurements, Edo Berger, Josh Bloom and Brian Metzger for discussions on GW-SGRB measurements, and Francois Foucart for discussion on the status of numerical relativity simulations. Some of the simulations were performed using the Sunnyvale cluster at Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA), which is funded by NSERC and CIAR. Part of this work was performed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. SMN is supported by the David & Lucile Packard Foundation. ND is supported by NASA under grants NNX12AD02G and NNX12AC99G, and by a Sloan Research Fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. DEH acknowledges support from National Science Foundation CAREER grant PHY-1151836. SAH is supported by NSF Grant PHY-1068720. SAH also gratefully acknowledges fellowship support by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and sabbatical support from CITA and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. CH is supported by the Simons Foundation, the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, and the US Department of Energy (award de-sc0006624).

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