Bringing LIGO Science to the Masses

Gravitational-wave
astronomy is now a reality.  In September 2015, the LIGO Scientific
Collaboration made the first direct detection of gravitational waves from the
collision of two black holes approximately one billion light years from Earth,
and with masses approximately thirty times that of our Sun.  Eleven gravitational wave detections have
since been made, including one coming from the collision of two neutron stars —
dead stellar remnants with cores more dense than in the nucleus of an
atom.  This latter observation allowed researchers to understand the
interiors of these exotic objects in unprecedented ways, providing insight into
the way nuclear physics works in regimes that cannot be created in terrestrial
experiments.

But how do we know these
exciting facts about the objects creating the gravitational waves in the first
place?  This is done through a mathematical technique known as Bayesian
parameter inference.  This allows complex and noisy data to be interpreted
in terms of the underlying model that created the data in the first
place.  For these gravitational-wave events, this parameter inference
allowed us to calculate the masses of the merging black holes, the distance at
which they merged, and the constituent properties of the neutron stars, among
many other things.

Researches at Monash
University have developed a new piece of software – adopted by the LIGO
Collaboration – that will do parameter estimation on future gravitational-wave
events.  The new software is designed to be easily adaptable and user
friendly and is therefore targeted, not only at trained gravitational-wave
astronomers, but also the broader scientific community who may want to dabble
in this new and exciting field.

ADACS has taken this one step further by building an easy-to-use front-end graphical interface that allows the most novice of users to harness the power of Swinburne’s supercomputing facilities to analyse technical gravitational-wave data seamlessly through a web browser.  We anticipate this will be taken up by both professional gravitational-wave researchers and beginners alike.  

The interface allows
users to analyse data by clicking through a series of easy-to-understand
windows, ultimately launching a job on a local computer or a high-performance
supercomputer.  Jobs are logged, easily searchable, and can be made
publicly available at the users discretion.

Until now, gravitational-wave astronomy has been a niche science;
available only to those who understand the complicated tools that allow for
interpretations of noisy time-series of data in terms of astrophysical
phenomena.  Monash researchers, together with the ADACS software support
program, have brought gravitational-wave astronomy to the masses, allowing
these complicated data to be analysed by relative novices and professionals
alike with a few clicks of a button
.” – Dr. Lasky, Monash University.

Bilby is currently undergoing internal review within the LIGO-VIRGO Collaboration (LVC) Parameter Estimation (PE) group and is on track to become the official PE code for LIGO. ADACS are currently working on the next phase of development of the Bilby user interface and workflow, as well as implementing LIGO user authentication.

The Bilby Interface welcome page

Configuring a new parameter estimation analysis

Viewing the results online