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    Observations of gravitational waves emitted by merging compact binaries have provided tantalizing hints about stellar astrophysics, cosmology, and fundamental physics. However, the physical parameters describing the systems (mass, spin, distance) used to extract these inferences about the Universe are subject to large uncertainties. The most widely used method of performing these analyses requires performing many Monte Carlo integrals to marginalize over the uncertainty in the properties of the individual binaries and the survey selection bias. These Monte Carlo integrals are subject to fundamental statistical uncertainties. Previous treatments of this statistical uncertainty have focused on ensuring that the precision of the inferred inference is unaffected; however, these works have neglected the question of whether sufficient accuracy can also be achieved. In this work, we provide a practical exploration of the impact of uncertainty in our analyses and provide a suggested framework for verifying that astrophysical inferences made with the gravitational-wave transient catalogue are accurate. Applying our framework to models used by the LIGO–Virgo–KAGRA collaboration and in the wider literature, we find that Monte Carlo uncertainty in estimating the survey selection bias is the limiting factor in our ability to probe narrow population models and this will rapidly grow more problematic as the size of the observed population increases.

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    The global network of interferometric gravitational wave (GW) observatories (LIGO, Virgo, KAGRA) has detected and characterized nearly 100 mergers of binary compact objects. However, many more real GWs are lurking sub-threshold, which need to be sifted from terrestrial-origin noise triggers (known as glitches). Because glitches are not due to astrophysical phenomena, inference on the glitch under the assumption it has an astrophysical source (e.g. binary black hole coalescence) results in source parameters that are inconsistent with what is known about the astrophysical population. In this work, we show how one can extract unbiased population constraints from a catalogue of both real GW events and glitch contaminants by performing Bayesian inference on their source populations simultaneously. In this paper, we assume glitches come from a specific class with a well-characterized effective population (blip glitches). We also calculate posteriors on the probability of each event in the catalogue belonging to the astrophysical or glitch class, and obtain posteriors on the number of astrophysical events in the catalogue, finding it to be consistent with the actual number of events included.

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  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2024
  4. Context. The growing set of gravitational-wave sources is being used to measure the properties of the underlying astrophysical populations of compact objects, black holes, and neutron stars. Most of the detected systems are black hole binaries. While much has been learned about black holes by analyzing the latest LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA (LVK) catalog, GWTC-3, a measurement of the astrophysical distribution of the black hole spin orientations remains elusive. This is usually probed by measuring the cosine of the tilt angle (cos τ ) between each black hole spin and the orbital angular momentum, with cos τ  = +1 being perfect alignment. Aims. The LVK Collaboration has modeled the cos τ distribution as a mixture of an isotropic component and a Gaussian component with mean fixed at +1 and width measured from the data. We want to verify if the data require the existence of such a peak at cos τ  = +1. Methods. We used various alternative models for the astrophysical tilt distribution and measured their parameters using the LVK GWTC-3 catalog. Results. We find that (a) augmenting the LVK model, such that the mean μ of the Gaussian is not fixed at +1, returns results that strongly depend on priors. If we allow μ  >  +1, then the resulting astrophysical cos τ distribution peaks at +1 and looks linear, rather than Gaussian. If we constrain −1 ≤  μ  ≤ +1, the Gaussian component peaks at μ  = 0.48 −0.99 +0.46 (median and 90% symmetric credible interval). Two other two-component mixture models yield cos τ distributions that either have a broad peak centered at 0.19 −0.18 +0.22 or a plateau that spans the range [ − 0.5, +1], without a clear peak at +1. (b) All of the models we considered agree as to there being no excess of black hole tilts at around −1. (c) While yielding quite different posteriors, the models considered in this work have Bayesian evidences that are the same within error bars. Conclusions. We conclude that the current dataset is not sufficiently informative to draw any model-independent conclusions on the astrophysical distribution of spin tilts, except that there is no excess of spins with negatively aligned tilts. 
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  5. Abstract

    Many astronomical surveys are limited by the brightness of the sources, and gravitational-wave searches are no exception. The detectability of gravitational waves from merging binaries is affected by the mass and spin of the constituent compact objects. To perform unbiased inference on the distribution of compact binaries, it is necessary to account for this selection effect, which is known as Malmquist bias. Since systematic error from selection effects grows with the number of events, it will be increasingly important over the coming years to accurately estimate the observational selection function for gravitational-wave astronomy. We employ density estimation methods to accurately and efficiently compute the compact binary coalescence selection function. We introduce a simple pre-processing method, which significantly reduces the complexity of the required machine-learning models. We demonstrate that our method has smaller statistical errors at comparable computational cost than the method currently most widely used allowing us to probe narrower distributions of spin magnitudes. The currently used method leaves 10%–50% of the interesting black hole spin models inaccessible; our new method can probe >99% of the models and has a lower uncertainty for >80% of the models.

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  6. Abstract

    Gravitational-wave observations of binary neutron star mergers provide valuable information about neutron star structure and the equation of state of dense nuclear matter. Numerous methods have been proposed to analyze the population of observed neutron stars, and previous work has demonstrated the necessity of jointly fitting the astrophysical distribution and the equation of state in order to accurately constrain the equation of state. In this work, we introduce a new framework to simultaneously infer the distribution of binary neutron star masses and the nuclear equation of state using Gaussian mixture model density estimates, which mitigates some of the limitations previously used methods suffer from. Using our method, we reproduce previous projections for the expected precision of our joint mass distribution and equation-of-state inference with tens of observations. We also show that mismodeling the equation of state can bias our inference of the neutron star mass distribution. While we focus on neutron star masses and matter effects, our method is widely applicable to population inference problems.

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  7. Abstract The collection of gravitational waves (GWs) that are either too weak or too numerous to be individually resolved is commonly referred to as the gravitational-wave background (GWB). A confident detection and model-driven characterization of such a signal will provide invaluable information about the evolution of the universe and the population of GW sources within it. We present a new, user-friendly, Python-based package for GW data analysis to search for an isotropic GWB in ground-based interferometer data. We employ cross-correlation spectra of GW detector pairs to construct an optimal estimator of the Gaussian and isotropic GWB, and Bayesian parameter estimation to constrain GWB models. The modularity and clarity of the code allow for both a shallow learning curve and flexibility in adjusting the analysis to one’s own needs. We describe the individual modules that make up pygwb , following the traditional steps of stochastic analyses carried out within the LIGO, Virgo, and KAGRA Collaboration. We then describe the built-in pipeline that combines the different modules and validate it with both mock data and real GW data from the O3 Advanced LIGO and Virgo observing run. We successfully recover all mock data injections and reproduce published results. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  8. Abstract

    The binary neutron star (BNS) mass distribution measured with gravitational-wave observations has the potential to reveal information about the dense matter equation of state, supernova physics, the expansion rate of the Universe, and tests of general relativity. As most current gravitational-wave analyses measuring the BNS mass distribution do not simultaneously fit the spin distribution, the implied population-level spin distribution is the same as the spin prior applied when analysing individual sources. In this work, we demonstrate that introducing a mismatch between the implied and true BNS spin distributions can lead to biases in the inferred mass distribution. This is due to the strong correlations between the measurements of the mass ratio and spin components aligned with the orbital angular momentum for individual sources. We find that applying a low-spin prior that excludes the true spin magnitudes of some sources in the population leads to significantly overestimating the maximum neutron star mass and underestimating the minimum neutron star mass at the population level with as few as six BNS detections. The safest choice of spin prior that does not lead to biases in the inferred mass distribution is one that allows for high spin magnitudes and tilts misaligned with the orbital angular momentum.

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