Strong Gravity research at Perimeter Institute is devoted to understanding both the theoretical and observational aspects of systems in which gravity is very strong (i.e., spacetime is highly curved or dynamical],. On one hand, this means studying extreme astrophysical systems, like black holes and neutron stars, as well as making and testing predictions for existing and forthcoming gravitational wave detectors, electromagnetic telescopes, and particle astrophysics experiments. On the other hand, it also includes a range of non-astrophysical topics, such as the instabilities of higher-dimensional black holes or the dynamics of strongly-coupled quantum field theories (via holography). The goal of strong gravity researcher is to test the validity of Einstein's theory of gravity, constrain proposed alternatives, understand the most extreme astrophysical systems, and investigate the ways in which highly curved or dynamical spacetimes are linked with a range of other problems in fundamental physics.
The gravitational radiation from the ringdown of a binary black hole merger is described by the solution of the Teukolsky equation, which predicts both the temporal and angular dependence of the emission. Many studies have explored the temporal feature of the ringdown wave through black hole spectroscopy. In this work, we further study the spatial distribution, by introducing a global fitting procedure over both temporal and spatial dependences, to propose a more complete test of General Relativity. We show that spin-weighted spheroidal harmonics are the better representation of the ringdown angular emission patterns compared to spin-weighted spherical harmonics. The differences are distinguishable in numerical relativity waveforms. We also study the correlation between progenitor binary properties and the excitation of quasinormal modes, including higher-order angular modes, overtones, prograde and retrograde modes. Specifically, we show that the excitation of retrograde modes is dominant when the remnant spin is anti-aligned with the binary orbital angular momentum. This study seeks to provide an analytical strategy and inspire the future development of ringdown test using real gravitational wave events.
In this talk I will outline recent attempts to probe black holes in the strong gravity regime. The access to gravitational wave emission from binary black hole mergers and images of supermassive black holes allow for new tests of general relativity. After reviewing recent activities, I will outline how quasi-normal modes and shadow images can be used to study possible deviations from general relativity. Finally, I will discuss open problems that need to be addressed in the future.
I will discuss the detailed process by which slow contraction smooths and flattens the universe using an improved numerical relativity code that accepts initial conditions with non-perturbative deviations from homogeneity and isotropy along two independent spatial directions. Contrary to common descriptions of the early universe, I will show that the geometry first rapidly converges to an inhomogeneous, spatially-curved, and anisotropic ultralocal state in which all spatial gradient contributions to the equations of motion decrease as an exponential in time to negligible values. This is followed by a second stage in which the geometry converges to a homogeneous, spatially flat, and isotropic spacetime. In particular, the decay appears to follow the same history whether the entire spacetime or only parts of it are smoothed by the end of slow contraction.
Black hole spectroscopy is a powerful tool to probe the Kerr nature of astrophysical compact objects and their environment. The observation of multiple ringdown modes in gravitational waveforms could soon lead to high-precision gravitational spectroscopy, thus it is critical to understand if the quasinormal mode spectrum itself is stable against perturbations. In this talk, I will review the pseudospectrum, a mathematical tool which can shed light on the spectral stability of quasinormal modes, and discuss its novel applications in black holes and exotic compact objects. Furthermore, I will demonstrate that quasinormal spectra generically suffer from spectral instabilities and will argue how such
behavior may affect black hole spectroscopy.
With the release of the third gravitational wave transient catalog (GWTC-3), the LIGO and Virgo detectors have reported nearly 100 gravitational waves from colliding black holes and neutron stars. Among these detections there have been numerous surprises, such as the heavy GW190521, the confidently asymmetric GW190412, and the exceptionally small secondary of GW190814. In addition to analyses of each individual sources' properties, such as their masses and spins, one can also summarize the collective properties of the colliding objects as population probability distributions over these parameters. As catalog sizes continue to grow, it enables both finer grained investigations into the population properties of merging compact objects, and robustly testing GR in the strong gravity regime. In this talk I will present data driven statistical models to look for deviations to underlying theoretical expectations, both for individual gravitational waveform models and population models describing the astrophysical distributions of merging compact binaries. I will present the results of an analysis using this novel data-driven model on the 11 compact binary mergers in GWTC-1, then move towards hierarchical models, inferring the binary black hole mass distribution with similar data-driven methods. I will conclude with showing new results from the LVK population analyses of GWTC-3 and motivate the need towards developing more data-driven statistical models for the incoming swath of observations expected in the fourth observing run that, as we have seen, will likely continue to further challenge theoretical expectations.
Guided by the principles of effective field theory (EFT), I will discuss three avenues to constrain physics beyond General Relativity with black-hole observations.
1) Shadows: Without specifying any particular gravitational dynamics, I will discuss image features of black-hole shadows in general parameterizations and their relation to fundamental-physics principles like (i) regularity (no remaining curvature singularity), (ii) simplicity (a single new-physics scale), and (iii) locality (a new-physics scale set by local curvature).
2) Stability: Specifying the linearized dynamics around black-hole spacetimes determines the onset of potential instabilities and connects to the ringdown phase of gravitational waves. I will delineate how said instabilities can constrain the EFT of gravity, theories of low-scale dark energy, as well as ultralight dark matter.
3) Nonlinear evolution: The larger the probed curvature scale, the tighter the constraints on new gravitational physics. Making full use of experimental data, thus relies on predictions in the nonlinear regime of binary mergers. I will present recent progress towards achieving stable numerical evolution for the EFT of gravity up to quadratic order in curvature.
The era of multi-messenger astronomy is well and truly upon us, with 90 compact binaries observed since the Advanced LIGO detectors saw first light in 2015. Despite our very own cosmic backyard, the Milky Way, being ripe with prospective sources for ground-based gravitational wave detectors, the closest source detected thus far (GW170817, the famed binary neutron star merger) was at a distance of 40 Mpc. In this talk, I will outline a number of prospective Galactic multi-messenger sources, and discuss several ways in which their detection over the next twenty years can be improved through both experimental and analytical techniques.
Accurate waveform models are crucial for gravitational-wave (GW) data analysis, and since numerical-relativity waveforms are computationally expensive, it is important to improve the analytical approximations for the binary dynamics. The post-Newtonian (PN) approximation is most suited for describing the inspiral of comparable-mass binaries, which are the main sources for ground-based GW detectors. In this talk, I discuss a method for deriving PN results valid for arbitrary mass ratios from first-order self-force results, by exploiting the simple mass dependence of the scattering angle in the post-Minkowskian expansion. I present results for the spin-orbit dynamics up to the fourth-subleading PN order (5.5PN) and the spin-spin dynamics up to the third-subleading PN order (5PN). I also discuss implications for the first law of binary mechanics.
Mergers of compact objects are among the most violent events in the Universe. At close separations, compact binaries emit gravitational waves, releasing enormous amounts of energy until they merge. When matter is present in the system, the event might be accompanied by electromagnetic emission, which can span the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Multi-messenger observations by gravitational-wave detectors and electromagnetic telescopes have opened a new avenue to understand the nature of spacetime and its interaction with matter. In this talk, I will discuss recent efforts to connect first-principle calculations with the electromagnetic radiation emitted in compact binary mergers through general-relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations. In particular, I will focus on the relativistic outflows produced in binary neutron star systems and on electromagnetic signatures of supermassive binary black-hole mergers.
The growing catalog of gravitational wave signals from binary black hole mergers has allowed us to probe the properties of these compact objects more precisely than ever before. In particular, binary black hole spin measurements have the potential to reveal the formation channels of these systems. An accurate and precise measurement of the spins of individual merging black holes is required to model their population-level distributions. In this talk, I will discuss recent work on the measurability of individual black hole spins focusing on those in heavy binaries. I will also present novel spin parameterizations that facilitate the study of specific features of binary black hole evolutionary histories. I will contextualize these individual spin measurements within the observed population of binary black holes and conclude by presenting the latest LIGO-Virgo results for the black hole spin distribution.
Many cosmological scenarios beyond the Standard Model lead to the formation of a network of cosmic strings. In this talk, I will review how these models lead in a natural way to the production of a stochastic gravitational wave background and how this signal could account for the recently reported results from the NANOGrav collaboration. Finally, we will explain how future observations could allow us to confirm this interpretation of the NANOGrav data.