LIGO Document G1100880-v1
- Gravitational waves (GWs), a major prediction of general relativity, are disturbances in spacetime caused by the movement of massive objects. Presently GWs have yet to be directly detected, although indirect evidence of their existence has been observed. The Laser Interferometric Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) is a collection of detectors whose aim is to detect GWs from astrophysical sources. One particular candidate source for GW detection is binary inspiral. A system of two orbiting compact stellar remnants, such as black holes or neutron stars, orbit one another radiating energy in the form of GWs, much like a charged particle in motion radiates electromagnetic waves. As the system loses energy, its orbital frequency increases, and the masses spiral inwards toward one another, eventually merging and releasing a burst of GWs. A useful parameter when considering gravitational radiation from a binary system is the systemís effective distance. This is the distance at which an optimally located and oriented binary system would produce the same signal in a given detector as the actual system. Using this parameter, the LIGO detectorsí sensitivity to gravitational radiation from inspiral sources can be mapped geometrically, and the probability of detecting a source with a given location and orientation can be determined. Graphical representations of these mappings have been produced, offering insight into the performance of the LIGO detectors in inspiral searches.
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