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Research group | Gravitational Wave Astronomy

Atlas Data Analysis Computer Cluster. Photo: Norbert Michalke
Visualization of the LISA detector in heliocentric orbit. Image: JPL/NASA/ESA

Gravitational Wave Astronomy promises to make the dark part of the universe accessible to observations. Even though no gravitational wave signals have been detected yet, intense worldwide efforts are going on to analyze the data being collected by the existing ground-based gravitational wave detectors. This involves the development of analysis algorithms, software optimization and the construction of dedicated computer clusters to search for weak signals in a large instrumental noise background. 

The data analysis for future space based detectors is facing an orthogonal problem as the LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) data stream will always be signal dominated and the challenge is to separate the various simultaneous sources, comparable to listening to a symphony orchestra. In the absence of any real detector data prior to 2020, the space data analysis is being tested on synthetic data in so-called LISA Mock Data Challenges.

The most important research area for our ground-based detector data analysis is the development and implementation of data analysis algorithms to search for the four different expected types of gravitational wave sources (burst, stochastic, continuous wave, and inspiral) in data from ground-based gravitational wave detectors. Searches for weak gravitational wave signals are very computer-intensive. The research group at the Albert-Einstein-Institut operates the ATLAS computing cluster, which is the world’s largest and most powerful resource dedicated to gravitational wave searches and data analysis. It also plays a leading role in the Einstein@Home project, which uses computing power donated by the general public to search for gravitational waves.