Many students have written theses on topics related to gravitational-wave physics. This collection of Ph.D., Master’s, and Bachelor’s theses covers a wide span of topics in this field, from early studies of gravitational-wave antennae to technology development for Advanced LIGO and theoretical models of gravitational wave generation by important astrophysical sources.
On September 14, 2015, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) measured gravitational waves from the merger of two black holes, kicking off a new era of gravitational-wave astronomy. This was the first direct measurement of gravitational waves — ripples in space-time that Albert Einstein predicted 100 years ago in his general theory of relativity.
The LIGO project and gravitational-wave physics have long been a major focus of research at MIT, which operates the LIGO facilities with Caltech. MIT faculty have also played a large role in developing gravitational-wave science.
Below is an annotated collection of technical reports, peer-reviewed articles, conference papers, and theses freely available in the DSpace@MIT repository that describe work done at MIT in this field, from the earliest science to post-detection research. Included are other useful resources.
Gravitational wave theory has been a major focus of research at MIT over the last decade and a half. These papers sample work done by faculty, postdocs, and graduate students on theoretical analyses of gravitational waves generated by sources like black holes and neutron stars, as well as analyses of astronomy and strong-gravity physics that can be enabled by gravitational-wave measurements.
These papers, all published as Quarterly Reports of the Research Laboratory of Electronics, describe early ideas by Professor Emeritus Rainer Weiss to develop sensitive antennae to measure gravitational waves. Professor Weiss is one of the founders of the LIGO project.
The April 1972 report is of particular interest: Starting on page 54 Professor Weiss writes in great detail about the sensitivity and anticipated noise that can be expected in a kilometer-scale interferometer to measure gravitational waves. This report presciently describes almost all of the major challenges that must be overcome in order for such a detector to work, and lays the foundations for the next four decades of experimental research in this field.
The two reports included prior to April 1972 very briefly describe plans further developed in the April 1972 report. The reports from 1973 to 1978 are short progress updates on initial development of gravitational-wave interferometers, after which time the project was transferred to MIT’s Department of Physics.
“Initial LIGO” refers to the LIGO instruments in their first interferometer configuration, from roughly 2001 until 2010. During this time, the LIGO facilities in Hanford, Washington and Livingston, Louisiana, were significantly overhauled and upgraded. The term “Advanced LIGO” (see below) is used to describe the LIGO interferometers following this upgrade.
These papers from 2009* to the present cover instrument development and data analysis algorithms, as well as actual searches done by Initial LIGO instruments.
(*Why 2009? In March 2009 MIT faculty passed an open access policy, and after doing so they began making scholarly articles openly available in DSpace. The Initial LIGO papers are all in the Open Access Articles collection of DSpace@MIT; in this collection a majority of papers have been published since the policy passed.)
The process of upgrading the LIGO facilities to advanced detectors began in 2010, shortly after the conclusion of the final Initial LIGO data run.
These papers describe experimental work relevant to the development of the advanced detectors. Much additional work on the development of Advanced LIGO can be found in certain Ph.D. theses, linked below.
After the September 14 event (known as GW150914), researchers began a long process of data and detector validation in order to ensure the accuracy of the discovery and understand in detail the waves that LIGO measured.