Summer of Code in Space 2019

We are proposing a project for the Summer of Code in Space 2019 programme!

The Black Hole Perturbation toolkit provides tools used in studying gravitational waves — ripples in space and time generated by extremely dense, compact objects such as spinning black holes. This has recently become a hot area of physics research, following the recent historic detection of gravitational waves by the LIGO collaboration. The gravitational waves detected by LIGO were generated over a billion years ago by the merger of a pair of spinning black holes in a distant galaxy.

The LIGO discovery was not the only recent breakthrough for gravitational wave detection. In 2016 we also witnessed the launch of the overwhelmingly successful ESA-led mission, LISA Pathfinder; a mission dedicated to demonstrating state of the art technologies required for space-based gravitational wave detectors. These results together have paved the way for LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), the third L-class mission in the ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme. The LISA consortium are currently preparing all of the components required for the mission to be a success, so the time is ripe for the development of the tools that we will need to interpret the signals from such a mission.

As was demonstrated by LIGO, a crucial component in the detection and analysis of gravitational wave signals is a detailed model for the expected signal — or waveform — from the merger of a pair of black holes. In the case of LISA, this translates to developing a bank of waveform templates for a particular class of binary black hole system called an Extreme Mass Ratio Inspiral. Black hole perturbation theory is the method of choice for producing these templates and the Black Hole Perturbation Toolkit is the open-source tool of choice for performing simulations based on perturbation theory. As an added bonus, many of the tools provided by the toolkit also have applications in other areas of physics such as electromagnetism and fluid mechanics.

Up to now, the Black Hole Perturbation Toolkit has provided a robust set of tools for performing a number of important calculations relevant to the study of black hole binaries with LISA. However, there remain a number of important gaps to be filled. The three SOCIS 2019 projects listed below aim to fill some of the most important of those gaps.

Project outlines

The goal of all three projects is to develop C/C++ and/or Python code for the Black Hole Perturbation Toolkit.

Project 1

Extreme mass ratio inspiral (EMRI) simulator

Develop a package that uses energy balance data to simulate binary black hole inspirals. This will allow users to visualise the orbital evolution of gravitational-wave sources that LISA will observe.

Project 2

Multi-platform geodesic integrator in stationary spacetimes

Design a package that calculates bound orbits and their characteristics in stationary spacetimes. The code will support the analysis of black hole systems detectable by the LISA space mission.

Project 3

Rapid calculation of post-Newtonian (PN) energy and angular momentum radiated from black hole binaries

Develop code to compute the flux of gravitational waves from LISA sources such as binary black holes in elliptic orbits. The code will be accurate to 3PN for arbitrary mass ratio and higher for EMRIs.

Eligibility criteria

These projects require experience with C/C++ and/or Python. It is also highly desirable to have experience with Mathematica (in order to understand some of the existing code in the BHPT) and ideally some experience of studying General Relativity at university level.


If you are interested in participating as a student, please contact: barry (dot) wardell (at) ucd (dot) ie.