Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



In his theory of General Relativity, Einstein describes gravity as a geometric property of spacetime, which deforms in the presence of mass and energy. The accelerated motion of masses produces deformations, which propagate outward from their source at the speed of light. We refer to these radiated deformations as gravitational waves. Over the past several decades, the goal of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) has been the search for direct evidence of gravitational waves from astrophysical sources, using ground based laser interferometers. As LIGO moves into its Advanced era (aLIGO), the direct detection of gravitational waves is inevitable. With the technology at hand, it is imperative that we have the tools to analyze the detector signal and examine the interesting astrophysical properties of the source. Some of the main targets of this search are coalescing compact binaries. In this thesis, I describe and evaluate bhextractor, a data analysis algorithm that uses Principal Component Analysis (PCA) to identify the main features of a set of gravitational waveforms produced by the coalescence of two black holes. Binary Black Hole (BBH) systems are expected to be among the most common sources of gravitational waves in the sensitivity band of aLIGO. However, the gravitational waveforms emitted by BBH systems are not well modeled and require computationally expensive Numerical Relativity (NR) simulations. bhextractor uses PCA to decompose a catalog of available NR waveforms into a set of orthogonal Principal Components (PCs), which efficiently select the major common features of the waveforms in the catalog and represent a portion of the BBH parameter space. From these PCs, we can reconstruct any waveform in the catalog, and construct new waveforms with similar properties. Using Bayesian analysis and Nested Sampling, one can use bhextractor to classify an arbitrary BBH waveform into one of the available catalogs and estimate the parameters of the gravitational wave source.

First Advisor

Laura Cadonati

Second Advisor

Lorenzo Sorbo

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Physics Commons