The IAU Commission on Gravitational Wave Astrophysics covers all areas of ground and space instrument to measure gravitational waves, theory and modeling. The next ten years will see major steps forward in the search and detection of gravitational waves, as the field transitions from one dominated by instrumentation development to one whose core is focused on astrophysics. LIGO and Virgo will begin operating their advanced detectors by 2017 with sensitivity to detect NS binary mergers to 150 Mpc and by 2020 to 200 Mpc. The detection rate is estimated to be tens of events per year. At the same time, the International Pulsar Timing Array will be observing a sufficient number of millisecond pulsars with accurate enough timing observations to begin detecting binary supermassive black holes in very low frequency gravitational waves. The LISA Pathfinder mission will launch in 2015 and demonstrate the drag-free control and laser interferometry technologies needed for ESA’s planned eLISA mission, which will see gravitational waves detected from a host of galactic and extragalactic objects.
There is great benefit in observing gravitational-wave sources in all bands of the electromagnetic spectrum with ground and space telescopes, and already a number of astronomers are preparing for joint observations with the various gravitational wave detectors. The process of integrating gravitational wave observations into mainstream astronomy will require both sides to learn about the other’s capabilities and needs. Electromagnetic astronomers will need to learn about the capabilities and limitations of source localization with gravitational waves and the time needed for validating detections. Gravitational wave astronomers will need to learn the community’s standards for providing alerts and for describing sources. The goal is to maximize the scientific return from gravitational wave observations by fostering open and effective communication. This Commission is providing the forum to bring these diverse communities together to share their expertise and to plan for future observations and interactions.
Specific activities are as follows. We propose to organize an IAU Symposium during the first 3 years on the interrelation between gravitational wave astrophysics and general astronomy. The Symposium will be organized by the Commission Organizing Committee. Another activity will be to implement a commission web page where information will be shared among our communities on topics such as meetings, news updates, job opportunities, science schools, instrument observing plans and proposal deadlines.
The work plan of the Commission is as follows:
1) To expand knowledge of gravitational-wave astrophysics to the broader IAU community. This could be achieved in part through the Symposium and in part through the commission webpage.
2) To stimulate and support cross-disciplinary exchanges and discussions among astronomers and gravitational-wave physicists, in order to share expertise and to maximize the science return of the gravitational-wave detections. This could be achieved by promoting workshops focused on data analysis and astrophysical interpretation of multi-messenger observations.
3) To develop and strengthen the connection between gravitational-wave detectors and electromagnetic observatories by supporting common programs of observations, and information and data sharing.
4) To support education and development of young researchers working on or interested in gravitational-wave astronomy. This will be achieved by promoting schools, spreading information on fellowship opportunities and supporting outreach initiatives.
5) To start initiatives with the goal to increase the participation of gender and under-represented minorities in the field of gravitational-wave astronomy.
6) To promote broad participation in the commission, with the goal to grow the membership of the commission to 300 by the end of the first 3 years.
Relationship to GWIC:
The development of increasingly capable gravitational wave detectors is an active research area of physics. Communication within the community of instrumental laboratories is currently facilitated by the GWIC, Gravitational Wave International Committee (Working Group 11 of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, a fellow organization of IAU under the International Council of Scientific Unions). Although our emphasis on astrophysics is complementary to the instrumental emphasis of GWIC, the improved facilities that are the domain of GWIC will play an important role in the early years of gravitational wave astrophysics. To ensure effective communication with GWIC, we propose that the new commission and GWIC have cross-representation on each other’s leadership committee. GWIC has accepted this proposal and has agreed to accept a representative from the new Commission as a full member. We propose to ensure that a member of GWIC serves on the Commission Organizing Committee.