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Published January 15, 1992 | public
Journal Article Open

Gravitational-wave bursts with memory: the Christodoulou effect

Thorne, Kip S.


The "memory" of a gravitational-wave burst is the permanent relative displacement that it imposes on free test masses, or more precisely, the permanent change in the burst's gravitational-wave field hjkTT. This memory, in general, is equal to the change, from before the burst to afterward, in the transverse-traceless (TT) part of the "1/r, Coulomb-type" gravitational field generated by the four-momenta of the source's various independent pieces. Christodoulou has recently identified a contribution to a burst's memory that arises from nonlinearities in the vacuum Einstein field equation. This paper shows that the Christodoulou memory is precisely the TT part of the "1/r, Coulomb-type" gravitational field produced by the burst's gravitons, and it therefore gets built up over the same length of time τbwm as it takes for the source to emit the gravitons. The sensitivity of broad-band gravitational-wave detectors such as LIGO to the Christodoulou memory is analyzed and discussed.

Additional Information

©1992 The American Physical Society. Received 16 July 1991. I thank Demetrious Christodoulou for making available to me the results of his research long in advance of publication. For helpful discussions I thank Christodoulou, Vladimir Braginsky, John Wheeler, and the LIGO Science team. For helpful suggestions about the presentation I thank Stan Whitcomb. This research was supported in part by National Science Foundation Grant No. AST-8817792.


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