Searching for the full symphony of black hole binary mergers

Ian Harry, Juan Calderón Bustillo, Alex Nitz

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Current searches for the gravitational-wave signature of compact binary mergers rely on matched-filtering data from interferometric observatories with sets of modeled gravitational waveforms. These searches currently use model waveforms that do not include the higher-order mode content of the gravitational-wave signal. Higher-order modes are important for many compact binary mergers and their omission reduces the sensitivity to such sources. In this work we explore the sensitivity loss incurred from omitting higher-order modes. We present a new method for searching for compact binary mergers using waveforms that include higher-order mode effects, and evaluate the sensitivity increase that using our new method would allow. We find that, when evaluating sensitivity at a constant rate-of-false alarm, and when including the fact that signal-consistency tests can reject some signals that include higher-order mode content, we observe a sensitivity increase of up to a factor of 2 in volume for high mass ratio, high total-mass systems. For systems with equal mass, or with total mass ∼50 M⊙, we see more modest sensitivity increases, <10%, which indicates that the existing search is already performing well. Our new search method is also directly applicable in searches for generic compact binaries.
Original languageEnglish
Article number023004
Number of pages17
JournalPhysical Review D
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2018


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


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