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Localizing merging black holes with sub-arcsecond precision using gravitational-wave lensing

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The current gravitational-wave localization methods rely mainly on sources with electromagnetic counterparts. Unfortunately, a binary black hole does not emit light. Due to this, it is generally impossible to localize these objects precisely. However, strongly lensed gravitational waves, which are forecasted in this decade, could allow us to localize the binary by locating its lensed host galaxy. Identifying the correct host galaxy is challenging because there are hundreds to thousands of other lensed galaxies within the sky area spanned by the gravitational-wave observation. However, we can constrain the lensing galaxy's physical properties through both gravitational-wave and electromagnetic observations. We show that these simultaneous constraints allow one to localize quadruply lensed waves to one or at most a few galaxies with the LIGO/Virgo/Kagra network in typical scenarios. Once we identify the host, we can localize the binary to two sub-arcsec regions within the host galaxy. Moreover, we demonstrate how to use the system to measure the Hubble constant as a proof-of-principle application.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Early online date24 Aug 2020
Publication statusEarly online - 24 Aug 2020


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    Rights statement: This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in MNRAS following peer review. The version of record Otto A. Hannuksela et al. 'Localizing merging black holes with sub-arcsecond precision using gravitational-wave lensing, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Ahead of print, staa2577, is available online at:

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 1.55 MB, PDF document

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