Davide Gerosa

University of Birmingham


IUPAP General Relativity and Gravitation Young Scientist Prize

I am the recipient of the 2020 IUPAP General Relativity and Gravitation Young Scientist Prize. The prize is awarded by the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation (ISGRG) through it affiliation with the  International Union of Pure and Applied Physics  (IUPAP) and “recognize outstanding achievements of scientists at early stages of their career”.

The citation reads: “For his outstanding contributions to gravitational-wave astrophysics, including new tests of general relativity.

A huge thank to all my supervisors and advisors that supported me in these past years. Here is the Birmingham press release.


Endpoint of the up-down instability in precessing binary black holes

Sometimes you have to look into things twice. We found the up-down instability back in 2015 and still did not really understand what was going on. Three out of four black hole binaries with spins aligned to the orbital angular momentum are stable (in the sense that the spins stay aligned), but one is not. The impostors are the “up-down” black holes –binaries where the spin of the big black holes is aligned and the spin of the small black hole is antialigned. These guys are unstable to spin precession: small perturbation will trigger large precession cycles. Matt’s paper today figures out what’s the fate of these runaways. We find that these binaries become detectable in LIGO and LISA with very specific spin configurations: the two spins are aligned with each other and equally misaligned with the orbital angular momentum. There’s a lot of interesting maths in this draft (my first paper with a proof by contradiction!) as well as some astrophysics (for you, AGN disks lover).

Matthew Mould, Davide Gerosa.
arXiv:2003.02281 [gr-qc].
Supporting material available here.


Milky Way satellites shining bright in gravitational waves

The LISA data analysis problem is going to be massive: tons of simultaneous sources all together at the same time. In Birmingham we are developing a new scheme to tackle the problem, and here are the first outcomes. We populate satellite galaxies of the Milky Way with double white dwarfs and show that LISA… can actually do it! LISA will detect these guys, tell us which galaxies they come from, etc. It might even discover new small galaxies orbiting the Milky Way! Surprise, surprise, LISA is going to be amazing…

Elinore Roebber, Riccardo Buscicchio, Alberto Vecchio, Christopher J. Moore, Antoine Klein, Valeriya Korol, Silvia Toonen, Davide Gerosa, Janna Goldstein, Sebastian M. Gaebel, Tyrone E. Woods.
arXiv:2002.10465 [astro-ph.GA].

ps. Here is the first half of the story.
ps2. The code still need a name. Suggestions?


Populations of double white dwarfs in Milky Way satellites and their detectability with LISA

The Milky Way, our own Galaxy, is not alone. We’re part of a galaxy cluster, but closer in we have some satellites. The bigger ones are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (which unfortunately I’ve never seen because they are in the southern hemisphere) but also other smaller ones: faint groups of stars in the outskirts of the Milky Way. Much like all galaxies, these faint satellites will have white dwarfs, those white dwarf will form binaries, which will be observable by LISA. There’s a new population of gravitational-wave sources there waiting to be discovered!

Valeriya Korol, Silvia Toonen, Antoine Klein, Vasily Belokurov, Fiorenzo Vincenzo, Riccardo Buscicchio, Davide Gerosa, Christopher J. Moore, Elinore Roebber, Elena M. Rossi, Alberto Vecchio.
arXiv:2002.10462 [astro-ph.GA].

ps. The second half of the story is here.


Prospects for fundamental physics with LISA

LISA is going to be cool. And not just for your astro-related dreams. Theoretical physicists can have fun too! This community-wide manifesto illustrates just how cool things are going to be with LISA. LISA will constitute a major milestone to test gravity, cosmology, the nature of black holes, etc. A big thanks to all those involved.

Enrico Barausse, et al. (322 authors incl. Davide Gerosa).
arXiv:2001.09793 [gr-qc].


Postdoc positions in our group

The Institute for Gravitational Wave Astronomy at the University of Birmingham, UK, invites applications for postdoctoral positions.

The Institute provides a vibrant and diverse environment with expertise covering theoretical and experimental gravitational-wave research, with applications to present and future-generation detectors, theoretical astrophysics, transient astronomy, gravitational-wave source modeling, and general relativity theory. Applications from top researchers in all areas related to gravitational-wave and transient astronomy are encouraged.

Institute faculty members include Andreas Freise, Davide Gerosa, Denis Martynov, Haixing Miao, Christopher Moore, Conor Mow-Lowry, Matt Nicholl, Patricia Schmidt, Silvia Toonen, and Alberto Vecchio.

One postdoctoral appointment is funded by the UK Leverhulme Trust (PI Dr. Davide Gerosa) and is focused on developing astrophysical and statistical predictions for the LISA space mission. The successful candidate will have ample opportunities to explore other areas of gravitational-wave astronomy as well.

Appointments will be for a three-year term starting in the Fall of 2020 and come with generous research and travel budget.

Applications should include a CV with a list of publications, and a two-page statement covering research interests and plans. Complete applications should be received by 27 January 2020 for full consideration. Applications should be sent to Ms. Joanne Cox at: j.s.cox@bham.ac.uk.
Applicants should also arrange for 3 reference letters to be sent by 27 January 2020 to the same email address.

For further information and informal inquiries please contact Dr. Davide Gerosa (d.gerosa@bham.ac.uk) and Prof. Alberto Vecchio (av@star.sr.bham.ac.uk).


“Hitting this problem hard enough” on Scientific American

I was recently interviewed for Scientific American about my recent paper on multiple-generation black holes in stellar clusters. Here is the article: “Black Hole Factories May Hide at Cores of Giant Galaxies”. Very happy to be quoted saying “I don’t think we’ve been hitting this problem hard enough”. I think it’s a nice summary of scientific research –so much to discover!


PhD applications now open!

We’re accepting applications from prospective PhD students. The deadline is Dec 31, 2019 for positions starting in the Fall of 2020.

Here below is my project description:

Astrophysics and phenomenology of gravitational-wave sources with LIGO and LISA
This project concentrates on developing theoretical and astrophysical prediction s of gravitational-wave sources. The first observations of gravitational waves by LIGO have ushered us into the golden age of gravitational-wave discoveries. Thousands of new events are expected to be observed in the next few years as detectors reach their design sensitivities. Such large catalogs of gravitational-wave observations will open new, unprecedented opportunities in terms of both fundamental physics and astrophysics. Crucially, they will need to be faced with increasingly accurate predictions. First, among large catalogs, there will be “golden” events. We expect systems that, because of their properties, are particularly interesting to carry out some specific measurements (perhaps because of their favorable orientations, or because they are very massive, or very rapidly rotating, etc). Second, large catalogs need to be exploited with powerful statistical techniques. In the long run, future facilities like LISA will deliver new kinds of sources providing access to a whole new set of phenomena in both astrophysics and fundamental physics. New theoretical tools and techniques need to be developed (and immediately applied!) to maximize the scientific payoff of current and future gravitational-wave observatories.


GrEAT PhD winter school

This week I am organizing the GrEAT PhD winter school. GrEAT (which stands for Gravitational-wave Excellence through Alliance Training) is a synergy network between the UK and China. Our program features informal talks in the mornings and hands-on sessions in the afternoons, covering both theoretical and experimental gravitational-wave physics.

After the school in Birmingham, students will move on to various UK nodes to complete longer projects. In particular, Mingyue Zhou will stay here working with me.


Winter visitors

Two close collaborators will be visiting my group this winter.

Vijay Varma, postdoc at Caltech and expert of numerical relativity surrogate models, will be here on October 7-11. Get ready for his talk “Binary black hole simulations: from supercomputers to your laptop” (aka: Everything you ever wanted to know about waveform surrogates).

Giovanni Rosotti, Veni fellow in Leiden, will be here on November 4-15. He will also give a talk: The observational era of planet formation. What do planets have to do with black holes? Turns out some stages of their evolution are set by the same equations. We have a lot to learn from each other! Giovanni’s visit is supported by the GWverse COST Action (thanks EU!).


Amplification of superkicks in black-hole binaries through orbital eccentricity

Today’s paper is about superkicks. These are extreme configurations of black hole binaries which receive a large recoil. Black hole recoils work much like those of, say, a cannon. As the cannonball flies, the cannon recoils backwards. Here the binary is shooting gravitational waves: as they are emitted, the system recoils in the opposite direction. In this paper we show that superkicks might be up to 25% larger if the binary is mildly eccentric. This means it’s a bit easier to kick black holes out of stellar clusters and galaxies.

Ulrich Sperhake, Roxana Rosca-Mead, Davide Gerosa, Emanuele Berti.
Physical Review D 101 (2020) 024044.
arXiv:1910.01598 [gr-qc].


Machine-learning interpolation of population-synthesis simulations to interpret gravitational-wave observations: a case study

Gravitational-wave astronomy is, seems obvious to say, about doing astronomy with gravitational waves. One has gravitational-wave observations (thanks LIGO and Virgo!) on hand and astrophysical models on the other hand. The more closely these two sides interact, the more we can hope to use gravitational-wave data to learn about the astrophysics of the sources. Today’s paper with JHU student Kaze Wong tries to further stimulate this dialog. And, well, one needs to throw some artificial intelligence in the game. There are three players now (astrophysics, gravitational waves, and machine learning) and things get even more interesting.

Kaze W.K. Wong, Davide Gerosa.
Physical Review D 100 (2019) 083015.
arXiv:1909.06373 [astro-ph.HE].

ps. The nickname of this project was sigmaspops


Black holes in the low mass gap: Implications for gravitational wave observations

What’s in between neutron stars and black holes? It looks like neutron stars have a maximum mass of about 2 solar masses while black holes have a minimum mass of about 5. So what’s in between? That’s the popular issue of the ‘low mass gap’. Actually, now we know something must be in there. LIGO and Virgo have seen GW170817, a merger of two neutron stars, which merged in to a black hole with the right mass to populate the gap. Can this population be seen directly with (future) gravitational-wave detectors? That’s today’s paper.

Anuradha Gupta, Davide Gerosa, K. G. Arun, Emanuele Berti, B. S. Sathyaprakash
arXiv:1909.05804 [gr-qc].


Summer research fun

This summer I’ll be working with two undergraduate research students. Luca Reali is finishing his master at my alma mater (University of Milan, Italy) and is visiting Birmingham with a scholarship from the HPC Europa 3 cluster. Daria Gangardt just finished her 3rd year in Birmingham. Their projects concentrate on spin effects in black hole binaries and the properties of merger remnants. Welcome Daria and Luca, hope you’ll have a very rewarding summer!


Escape speed of stellar clusters from multiple-generation black-hole mergers in the upper mass gap

Funny things happen in supernova explosions. Funny and complicated. If the star is too massive, the explosion is unstable. The black hole it formed it not as massive as it could have been. In gravitational-wave astronomy, this means that we should not observe black holes heavier than about 50 solar masses. This does not apply, of course, to black holes that are not formed from stars, but from other black holes (yes! more black holes!). If black holes resulting from older gravitational wave events somehow stick around, they could be recycled in other generations of mergers. We point out that this can work only if their astrophysical environment is dense enough. Can we measure the escape speed of black holes “nurseries” using gravitational-wave events that should not be there because of supernova instabilities?

Davide Gerosa, Emanuele Berti.
Physical Review D Rapid Communications 100 (2019) 041301R.
arXiv:1906.05295 [astro-ph.HE].
Press release: Birmingham.
Other press coverage: interestingengineeringmetro.co.ukMedia INAF (Italian), Great Lakes Ledgersciencealert.


Gravitational-wave detection rates for compact binaries formed in isolation: LIGO/Virgo O3 and beyond.

LIGO and Virgo are up and running like crazy. They started their third observing run (O3) and in just a few months doubled the catalogs of observing events. And there’s so much more coming! In this paper we try to work out “how much” using our astrophysical models. Figure 4 is kind of shocking: we’re talking about thousands of black holes in a few years, and millions of them in 20 years. Need to figure out what to do with them…

Vishal Baibhav, Emanuele Berti, Davide Gerosa, Michela Mapelli, Nicola Giacobbo, Yann Bouffanais, Ugo N. Di Carlo.
Physical Review D 100 (2019) 064060.
arXiv:1906.04197 [gr-qc].


Are stellar-mass black-hole binaries too quiet for LISA?

Spoiler alert: this paper is a bit sad.

Stellar-mass black-hole binaries are now detected by LIGO on a weekly basis. It would be really cool if LISA (a future space mission targeting low-frequencies gravitational waves) could see them as well. We could do a lot of cool stuff, in both the astro and the theory side of things. In today’s paper, we try to figure out how easy or hard it will be to extract these signals from the LISA noise. Well, it’s hard. In terms of the minimum signal-to-noise ratio required, we find that this is as high as 15. The number of expected detection becomes discouragingly low unless the detector behaves a bit better at high frequencies or black holes with 100 solar masses start floating around.

Christopher J. Moore, Davide Gerosa, Antoine Klein.
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters 488 (2019) L94–L98.
arXiv:1905.11998 [astro-ph.HE].


Constraining the fraction of binary black holes formed in isolation and young star clusters with gravitational-wave data

Where do black holes come from? Sounds like a scify book title, but it’s real. These days, that’s actually the million dollar question in gravitational-wave astronomy. LIGO sees (lots of!) black holes in binaries, and those data encode information on how their stellar progenitors behave, what they like or did not like to do. This is paper is the latest attempt to understand if black holes formed alone (i.e. a single binary star forms a single binary black hole) or together (i.e. many stars exchange pairs in dense stellar environments).

Yann Bouffanais, Michela Mapelli, Davide Gerosa, Ugo N. Di Carlo, Nicola Giacobbo, Emanuele Berti, Vishal Baibhav.
Astrophysical Journal, 886 (2019) 25.
arXiv:1905.11054 [astro-ph.HE].


Surrogate models for precessing binary black hole simulations with unequal masses

Surrogate models are the best of both worlds. Numerical-relativity simulations are accurate but take forever. Waveform models have larger errors but can be computed cheaply, which means they can be used in the real world and compared with data. Surrogates are as fast as the approximate waform models, but as accurate as the numerical-relativity simulations they are trained on. Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you, this does sound impossible. Check out our new paper, where we pushed this effort to binaries with spins and more unequal masses.

Vijay Varma, Scott E. Field, Mark A. Scheel, Jonathan Blackman, Davide Gerosa, Leo C. Stein, Lawrence E. Kidder, Harald P. Pfeiffer.
Physical Review Research 1 (2019) 033015.
arXiv:1905.09300 [gr-qc].


Multiband gravitational-wave event rates and stellar physics

The prospect of multiband gravitational-wave astronomy is so so so exciting (I mean, really!). So exciting that we want to make sure once again it’s true; and this is today’s paper. Multiband means seeing the same black hole binary with both LIGO at high frequencies and LISA at low frequencies. LISA observations can serve as precursors for the LIGO mergers, and you can a whole lot of new science (astrophysics, tests of GR, smart data analysis, cosmology, etc). Here we have a new semi-analytic way to estimate the rate (i.e. how many) of multiband events, and we also explore some of the stellar physics one could constraint with them. Enjoy!

Davide Gerosa, Sizheng Ma, Kaze W.K. Wong, Emanuele Berti, Richard O’Shaughnessy, Yanbei Chen, Krzysztof Belczynski
Physical Review D 99 (2019) 103004.
arXiv:1902.00021 [astro-ph.HE].
Supporting material available here.


Wide nutation: binary black-hole spins repeatedly oscillating from full alignment to full anti-alignment

Latest in the series of our spin-precession papers, here we found a thing that was worthy of a new name: wide nutation (we had wide precession before, but this is better). These are black-hole binary configurations where the angle between any of the two spins and the orbital angular momentum changes a lot. Can’t change more actually: spins goes from full alignment to full anti-alignment. And they do it many times.

ps. We found this wide precession during Alicia’s SURF undergraduate summer project at Caltech. Jackpot!

Davide Gerosa, Alicia Lima, Emanuele Berti, Ulrich Sperhake, Michael Kesden, Richard O’Shaughnessy.
Classical and Quantum Gravity 36 (2019) 10, 105003.
arXiv:1811.05979 [gr-qc].
Supporting material available here.


Optimizing LIGO with LISA forewarnings to improve black-hole spectroscopy

LISA is going to be amazing: supermassive black-holes, galactic white dwarfs, EMRIs… Besides all of that, LISA can help us doing LIGO’s science better. Some LIGO sources (notably, things like GW150914) will show up in LISA years in advance. LISA is going to tell us when (in time) and where (in frequency) LIGO will see these sources. In this paper, we explore the idea of adapting the LIGO noise curve if one knows that a source is coming in (because LISA told us). We apply this idea to ringdown tests of GR, and show how powerful they become.

Rhondale Tso, Davide Gerosa, Yanbei Chen.
Physical Review D 99 (2019) 124043.
arXiv:1807.00075 [gr-qc].
Other press coverage: astrobites.