School of Astroparticle Physics
May 27th - June 1st, 2013
OHP, Saint Michel l'Observatoire

Gravitational Waves

Electromagnetic follow-up of gravitational observations

Astroparticule et Cosmologie (APC)

The field of gravitational-wave physics will enter soon a new era with the advent of a new generation of detectors expected to start operation in 2015. Thanks to a ten-fold increase in sensitivity with respect to the previous generation, the advanced detectors advanced LIGO and advanced Virgo will probably make the first direct detection of gravitational waves.

Most likely sources are very energetic astrophysical events like core collapse supernovae or mergers of neutron-star and/or black hole binaries. It is probable that those astrophysical events are not only visible in the gravitational-wave spectrum but also in the electromagnetic spectrum. The observation of an electromagnetic counterpart (in the band ranging from the radio waves to the gamma rays) is likely to be a key ingredient for confirming the cosmic nature of the first detected gravitational-wave event.
  1. Astrophysical motivations
  2. Electromagnetic counterparts to gravitational-wave transients (Gamma-ray burst afterglow, kilonova, etc)
  3. Production of alerts from gravitational-wave observations
    1. Event selection
    2. Source direction reconstruction
    3. Telescope pointing strategy
  4. Optical transient searches in follow-up images

This lecture provides a review of the astrophysical motivations for the electromagnetic follow-up of gravitational-wave observations and of the basic elements necessary to its implementation. In this lecture, we will describe the electromagnetic emission potentially associated to transient gravitational-wave sources with a special interest on gamma-ray burst and their optical and radio afterglow.  We will cover the aspects related to alert production from gravitational-wave data and the associated observation strategies. Finally, we will examine the search for optical transients in the astronomical images. The lecture is based on the experience gained from last LIGO and Virgo data takings. We will discuss the prospects offered in this domain by advanced detectors.

    • Identifying Elusive Electromagnetic Counterparts to Gravitational Wave Mergers: an end-to-end simulation
    • Implementation and testing of the first prompt search for gravitational wave transients with electromagnetic counterparts

    • First Low-Latency LIGO+Virgo Search for Binary Inspirals and their Electromagnetic Counterparts
    • Prospects for Localization of Gravitational Wave Transients by the Advanced LIGO and Advanced Virgo Observatories


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