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Published February 15, 2017 | Submitted + Published
Journal Article Open

Cosmological inference using only gravitational wave observations of binary neutron stars


Gravitational waves emitted during the coalescence of binary neutron star systems are self-calibrating signals. As such, they can provide a direct measurement of the luminosity distance to a source without the need for a cross-calibrated cosmic distance-scale ladder. In general, however, the corresponding redshift measurement needs to be obtained via electromagnetic observations since it is totally degenerate with the total mass of the system. Nevertheless, Fisher matrix studies have shown that, if information about the equation of state of the neutron stars is available, it is possible to extract redshift information from the gravitational wave signal alone. Therefore, measuring the cosmological parameters in pure gravitational-wave fashion is possible. Furthermore, the huge number of sources potentially observable by the Einstein Telescope has led to speculations that the gravitational wave measurement is potentially competitive with traditional methods. The Einstein Telescope is a conceptual study for a third generation gravitational wave detector which is designed to yield 10^3–10^7 detections of binary neutron star systems per year. This study presents the first Bayesian investigation of the accuracy with which the cosmological parameters can be measured using information coming only from the gravitational wave observations of binary neutron star systems by the Einstein Telescope. We find, by direct simulation of 10^3 detections of binary neutron stars, that, within our simplifying assumptions, H_0, Ω_m, Ω_Λ, w_0 and w_1 can be measured at the 95% level with an accuracy of ∼8% , 65%, 39%, 80% and 90%, respectively. We also find, by extrapolation, that a measurement accuracy comparable with current measurements by Planck is possible if the number of gravitational wave events observed is O(10^(6–7)) . We conclude that, while not competitive with electromagnetic missions in terms of significant digits, gravitational waves alone are capable of providing a complementary determination of the dynamics of the Universe.

Additional Information

© 2017 The Authors. Published by the American Physical Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article's title, journal citation, and DOI. Received 22 June 2015; published 2 February 2017. This work benefitted from stimulating discussions and comments from Bangalore Sathyaprakash, Alberto Vecchio, John Veitch, Ilya Mandel and Christopher Berry. We thank the anonymous referees for their comments and suggestions. The work was funded in part by a Leverhulme Trust research project grant. W. D. P. is funded by the program "Rientro dei Cervelli Rita Levi Montalcini." C. M. is supported by the Science and Technology Research Council (Grant No. ST/L000946/1).

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Published - PhysRevD.95.043502.pdf

Submitted - 1506.06590v2.pdf


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