Physicists have devised a fast, accurate model that recreates the gravitational-wave signals produced by spiralling and colliding neutron stars. The model could help researchers to work out the stars' properties.

The US Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is looking for gravitational waves — ripples in space-time generated by cataclysmic cosmic events, such as collisions of stars and other bodies. To learn more about neutron stars from these signals, researchers need a wide range of simulated examples of collisions for comparison. Creating a full simulation can take several weeks, so Tanja Hinderer at the University of Maryland in College Park and her colleagues produced a simplified model. By showing in detail how the stars deform under each other's strong gravitational pull, the model predicts waveforms that agree better with full simulations than do previous such models.

The authors plan to use their model to create thousands of different possible waveforms that will help researchers to interpret LIGO data.

Phys. Rev. Lett. 116, 181101 (2016)