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Published August 15, 2021 | Published + Accepted Version
Journal Article Open

Morphology-independent test of the mixed polarization content of transient gravitational wave signals


Gravitational waves in general relativity contain two polarization degrees of freedom, commonly labeled plus and cross. Besides those two tensor modes, generic theories of gravity predict up to four additional polarization modes: two scalar and two vector. Detection of nontensorial modes in gravitational wave data would constitute a clean signature of physics beyond general relativity. Previous measurements have pointed to the unambiguous presence of tensor modes in gravitational waves, but the presence of additional generic nontensorial modes has not been directly tested. We propose a model-independent analysis capable of detecting and characterizing mixed tensor and nontensor components in transient gravitational wave signals, including those from compact binary coalescences. This infrastructure can constrain the presence of scalar or vector polarization modes on top of the tensor modes predicted by general relativity. Our analysis is morphology-independent (as it does not rely on a waveform templates), phase-coherent, and agnostic about the source sky location. We apply our analysis to data from GW190521 and simulated data and demonstrate that it is capable of placing upper limits on the strength of nontensorial modes when none are present, or characterizing their morphology in the case of a positive detection. Tests of the polarization content of a transient gravitational wave signal hinge on an extended detector network, wherein each detector observes a different linear combination of polarization modes. We therefore anticipate that our analysis will yield precise polarization constraints in the coming years, as the current ground-based detectors LIGO Hanford, LIGO Livingston, and Virgo are joined by KAGRA and LIGO India.

Additional Information

© 2021 American Physical Society. Received 4 May 2021; accepted 8 July 2021; published 3 August 2021. We thank Tom Callister for helpful comments on the manuscript. M. I. is supported by NASA through the NASA Hubble Fellowship Grant No. HST-HF2-51410.001-A awarded by the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., for NASA, under contract No. NAS5-26555. C.-J. H. acknowledge support of the National Science Foundation, and the LIGO Laboratory. This research has made use of data, software and/or web tools obtained from the Gravitational Wave Open Science Center ([87]), a service of LIGO Laboratory, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration. This material is based upon work supported by NSF's LIGO Laboratory which is a major facility fully funded by the 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. The authors are grateful for computational resources provided by the LIGO Laboratory and supported by National Science Foundation Grants No. PHY-0757058 and No. PHY-0823459, and for resources provided by the Open Science Grid [88,89], which is supported by the National Science Foundation Grant 1148698, and the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. Software: matplotlib [90], numpy [91], scipy [92], gwpy [93], seaborn [94].

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Accepted Version - 2105.01521.pdf

Published - PhysRevD.104.044005.pdf


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August 20, 2023
August 20, 2023