Searching for gravitational waves from compact binaries with precessing spins

Ian Harry, Stephen Privitera, Alejandro Bohé, Alessandra Buonanno

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Current searches for gravitational waves from compact-object binaries with the LIGO and Virgo observatories employ waveform models with spins aligned (or anti-aligned) with the orbital angular momentum. Here, we derive a new statistic to search for compact objects carrying generic (precessing) spins. Applying this statistic, we construct banks of both aligned- and generic-spin templates for binary black holes and neutron-star--black-hole binaries, and compare the effectualness of these banks towards simulated populations of generic-spin systems. We then use these banks in a pipeline analysis of Gaussian noise to measure the increase in background incurred by using generic- instead of aligned-spin banks. Although the generic-spin banks have a factor of ten to twenty more templates than the aligned-spin banks, we find an overall improvement in signal recovery at fixed false-alarm rate for systems with high-mass ratio and highly precessing spins ---up to 60\% for neutron-star--black-hole mergers. This gain in sensitivity comes at a small loss of sensitivity ($\lesssim$4\%) for systems that are already well-covered by aligned-spin templates. Since the observation of even a single binary merger with misalinged spins could provide unique astrophysical insights into the formation of these sources, we recommend that the method described here be developed further to mount a viable search for generic-spin binary mergers in LIGO/Virgo data.
Original languageEnglish
Article number024012
Number of pages21
JournalPhysical Review D
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2016


  • gr-qc
  • astro-ph.CO
  • astro-ph.HE


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