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Gravitational Wave Astrophysics of Compact Binaries

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The first direct detection of gravitational waves from mergers of black holes and neutron stars by ground-based interferometric detectors LIGO and Virgo are anticipated in the next 5 years. They will provide us with a new probe on the Universe and enable us explore compact-binary astrophysics and strong-field general relativity. In this talk, I review the current knowledge of the coalescence rates and parameter distributions of merging neutron-star and black-hole binaries and the data-analysis challenges associated with finding their signatures in noisy data. I emphasize the bi-directional connection between gravitational-wave astronomy and conventional astrophysics. I report on ongoing efforts to develop a framework for converting gravitational-wave observations into improved constraints on astrophysical parameters and discuss future developments necessary to the success of gravitational-wave astronomy. I also highlight some exciting recent investigations into the use of gravitational waves as probes of cosmology and tests of general relativity.

This talk is part of the Institute of Astronomy Colloquia series.

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