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Published August 2017 | Submitted
Journal Article Open

Observing gravitational waves with a single detector


A major challenge of any search for gravitational waves is to distinguish true astrophysical signals from those of terrestrial origin. Gravitational-wave experiments therefore make use of multiple detectors, considering only those signals which appear in coincidence in two or more instruments. It is unclear, however, how to interpret loud gravitational-wave candidates observed when only one detector is operational. In this paper, we demonstrate that the observed rate of binary black hole mergers can be leveraged in order to make confident detections of gravitational-wave signals with one detector alone. We quantify detection confidences in terms of the probability P(S) that a signal candidate is of astrophysical origin. We find that, at current levels of instrumental sensitivity, loud binary black hole candidates observed with a single Advanced LIGO detector can be assigned P(S)≳0.4. In the future, Advanced LIGO may be able to observe binary black hole mergers with single-detector confidences exceeding P(S)∼90%.

Additional Information

© 2017 IOP Publishing Ltd. Received 3 April 2017; Accepted 20 June 2017; Accepted Manuscript online 20 June 2017; Published 5 July 2017. We wish to thank the PyCBC development team for use of the O1 trigger list. We also thank Jolien Creighton, Tom Dent, Reed Essick, Will Farr, Chad Hanna, Alex Nitz, Surabhi Sachdev, and David Shoemaker for helpful comments and conversation, and the anonymous referees for their valuable feedback. SD would like to thank Alan Weinstein and Albert Lazzarini for his visit to LIGO at Caltech and the LIGO Laboratory for the local travel and hospitality. TC, JK, TM, and AW are members of the LIGO Laboratory, supported by funding from the US National Science Foundation. LIGO was constructed by the California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology with funding from the National Science Foundation and operates under cooperative agreement Grant No. PHY-0757058. This paper carries the LIGO Document Number LIGO-P1700032.

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