School of Physics and Astronomy

Cosmology with gravitational waves

Research Group: Cosmology and Relativity Group (Astronomy Unit)

Number of Students: 1

Length of Study in Years: 3-4

Full-time Project: yes

Funding:

STFC studentship, QMUL College studentship

Project Description:

The first direct detections of gravitational waves were made by the LIGO detectors in 2015. These waves were produced by the collision of two black holes, one of the most exotic and gravitationally extreme environments in the universe. More gravitational wave events are now being detected every month, and we are just beginning to understand the information that they can reveal about the nature of gravity.

This project will determine what these exciting new discoveries might hold in store for cosmology. You will investigate how merging compact objects can be used as ‘Standard Sirens’, i.e. events registered via both gravitational waves and electromagnetic light. Standard Sirens are particularly important for cosmology because they allow us to measures distances in the universe, and its rate of expansion. What’s more, models of dark energy and modified gravity — proposed to explain the accelerating expansion rate of the universe — can affect the properties of Standard Sirens.

Illustration of gravitational waves being emitted by merging compact objects. Image credit: LIGO Collaboration/T.Pyle.

At present, all gravitational-wave detectors are ground-based. However, the future Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission will be the first gravitational wave detector in space. There will be opportunities in this project to get involved with preparations for LISA (more details on LISA here: https://www.elisascience.org)

Key questions studied in this project might include:

  • What is the effect of dark energy on gravitational waveforms?
  • How well will we be able to test cosmological models using Standard Sirens?
  • Can we use gravitational events without an electromagnetic counterpart?
  • How do the distortion effects of gravitational lensing affect gravitational waves?

Requirements:

A Masters degree in physics, mathematics, or similar.

SPA Academics: Dr Tessa Baker