Massive black holes in galactic nuclei will capture stellar-mass compact objects, such as a neutron star or black hole. As the smaller compact object orbits the massive black hole the emission of gravitational waves will slowly drain the orbit of energy and angular momentum, shrinking and circularizing the orbit until a final plunge and merger occurs. The emitted gravitational waves will be detectable with future space-based gravitational-wave detectors, such as the European Space Agency’s Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, LISA. The waves will carry rich information about the binaries allowing for precision tests of general relativity and a census of the properties of massive black holes. Detecting and understanding these binaries requires precise modeling of the gravitational waves they emit.
This project focuses on modeling these so-called extreme mass ratio binaries. These systems can be modeled using black hole perturbation theory where the the Einstein field equations are expanded in powers of the (small) mass-ratio about an analytically known black hole solution (typically Schwarzschild or Kerr spacetime). Modeling these binaries is a multi-faceting problem involving a combination of analytic and numerical work and there is wide scope for the student to choose the direction and emphasis of their research.
This funding is only available to citizens of EU member states.