Numerical Relativity and Gravitational Radiation from Binary Black Hole Mergers
In September of 2015, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) made the first-ever direct detection of gravitational waves, propagating ripples in the structure of spacetime itself, confirming a nearly century-old prediction of Einstein’s general relativity, and providing an entirely new medium for astronomical observations. The waves, from these particular events and from others like them to come, encode information about the fully nonlinear dynamics of spacetime itself, as they appear to arise from collisions of vacuum black holes. Computational simulation of these events, via a family of techniques known as Numerical Relativity, provide an essential bridge between Einstein’s basic theory and the observations of gravitational wave astronomy. In this talk, I will briefly summarize the basic phenomenon of gravitational radiation and the structure of the LIGO instrument, and describe some of the techniques by which we model these exotic events.