Chirps, Mergers and Explosions: The Final Moments of Coalescing Compact Binaries

Coordinators: Edo Berger, Duncan Brown, Alessandra Buonanno, Chris Fryer, Luis Lehner

The direct detection of gravitational waves, and their association to electromagnetic counterparts, would be a transformative event in 21st century astrophysics. The most promising sources for detection with the next-generation gravitational-wave detectors (Advanced LIGO and Virgo in 2015) are compact object binaries, containing neutron stars and/or black holes. When matter is present, these sources are also expected to produce brilliant electromagnetic fireworks (for example, short-duration gamma-ray bursts), which will aid in the detection, localization and interpretation of the gravitational-wave signals, as well as in the extraction of source physics. The aim of this three-month program is to address the wide range of analytical, numerical, and observational questions related to the evolution of these systems and their associated gravitational-wave and electromagnetic signatures, and to discuss optimal strategies for their detection. Overlapping participation from the relevant communities is sought, in order to pursue a fundamental understanding that includes detailed waveform predictions, detectability in gravitational and electromagnetic waves, and coordination of the observational searches.

The primary goal of this program is to address the inspiral and merger physics of various binary systems, to study the merger signatures in gravitational waves, and to explore the electromagnetic outcomes. These goals will be addressed concurrently around the main themes of detection (gravitational waves and electromagnetic), measurement of source properties (mass, spin, distance), and interpretation (evolution, general relativity, cosmology). The program will also include a week-long conference (July 30 - August 3, 2012) on the topic of gravitational wave and electromagnetic studies of compact object binaries.