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A gravitational-wave standard siren measurement of the Hubble constant


On 17 August 2017, the Advanced LIGO1 and Virgo2 detectors observed the gravitational-wave event GW170817—a strong signal from the merger of a binary neutron-star system3. Less than two seconds after the merger, a γ-ray burst (GRB 170817A) was detected within a region of the sky consistent with the LIGO–Virgo-derived location of the gravitational-wave source4,5,6. This sky region was subsequently observed by optical astronomy facilities7, resulting in the identification8,9,10,11,12,13 of an optical transient signal within about ten arcseconds of the galaxy NGC 4993. This detection of GW170817 in both gravitational waves and electromagnetic waves represents the first ‘multi-messenger’ astronomical observation. Such observations enable GW170817 to be used as a ‘standard siren’14,15,16,17,18 (meaning that the absolute distance to the source can be determined directly from the gravitational-wave measurements) to measure the Hubble constant. This quantity represents the local expansion rate of the Universe, sets the overall scale of the Universe and is of fundamental importance to cosmology. Here we report a measurement of the Hubble constant that combines the distance to the source inferred purely from the gravitational-wave signal with the recession velocity inferred from measurements of the redshift using the electromagnetic data. In contrast to previous measurements, ours does not require the use of a cosmic ‘distance ladder’19: the gravitational-wave analysis can be used to estimate the luminosity distance out to cosmological scales directly, without the use of intermediate astronomical distance measurements. We determine the Hubble constant to be about 70 kilometres per second per megaparsec. This value is consistent with existing measurements20,21, while being completely independent of them. Additional standard siren measurements from future gravitational-wave sources will enable the Hubble constant to be constrained to high precision.

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Figure 1: GW170817 measurement of H0.
Figure 2: Inference on H0 and inclination.
Figure 3: Constraints on the inclination angle of GW170817.


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We acknowledge the support of the United States National Science Foundation (NSF) for the construction and operation of the LIGO Laboratory and Advanced LIGO as well as the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) of the United Kingdom, the Max-Planck-Society (MPS), and the State of Niedersachsen/Germany for support of the construction of Advanced LIGO and construction and operation of the GEO600 detector. Additional support for Advanced LIGO was provided by the Australian Research Council. We acknowledge the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN), the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research for the construction and operation of the Virgo detector and the creation and support of the EGO consortium. We acknowledge research support from these agencies as well as by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research of India, the Department of Science and Technology, India, the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), India, the Ministry of Human Resource Development, India, the Spanish Agencia Estatal de Investigación, the Vicepresidència i Conselleria d’Innovació, Recerca i Turisme and the Conselleria d’Educació i Universitat del Govern de les Illes Balears, the Conselleria d’Educació, Investigació, Cultura i Esport de la Generalitat Valenciana, the National Science Centre of Poland, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, the Russian Science Foundation, the European Commission, the European Regional Development Funds (ERDF), the Royal Society, the Scottish Funding Council, the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance, the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund (OTKA), the Lyon Institute of Origins (LIO), the National Research, Development and Innovation Office Hungary (NKFI), the National Research Foundation of Korea, Industry Canada and the Province of Ontario through the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council Canada, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovations, and Communications, the International Center for Theoretical Physics South American Institute for Fundamental Research (ICTP-SAIFR), the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), the Leverhulme Trust, the Research Corporation, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), Taiwan and the Kavli Foundation. We acknowledge the support of the NSF, STFC, MPS, INFN, CNRS and the State of Niedersachsen/Germany for provision of computational resources. This paper has been assigned the document number LIGO-P1700296. We thank the University of Copenhagen, DARK Cosmology Centre, and the Niels Bohr International Academy for hosting D.A.C., R.J.F., A.M.B., E. Ramirez-Ruiz and M.R.S. during the discovery of GW170817/SSS17a. R.J.F., A.M.B., E. Ramirez-Ruiz and D.E.H. were participating in the Kavli Summer Program in Astrophysics, ‘Astrophysics with gravitational wave detections’. This program was supported by the the Kavli Foundation, Danish National Research Foundation, the Niels Bohr International Academy, and the DARK Cosmology Centre. The UCSC group is supported in part by NSF grant AST–1518052, the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, generous donations from many individuals through a UCSC Giving Day grant, and from fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (R.J.F.), the David and Lucile Packard Foundation (R.J.F. and E. Ramirez-Ruiz) and the Niels Bohr Professorship from the DNRF (E. Ramirez-Ruiz). A.M.B. acknowledges support from a UCMEXUS-CONACYT Doctoral Fellowship. Support for this work was provided by NASA through Hubble Fellowship grants HST–HF–51348.001 and HST–HF–51373.001 awarded by the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., for NASA, under contract NAS5–26555. The Berger Time-Domain Group at Harvard is supported in part by the NSF through grants AST-1411763 and AST-1714498, and by NASA through grants NNX15AE50G and NNX16AC22G. Funding for the DES Projects has been provided by the DOE and NSF (USA), MEC/MICINN/MINECO (Spain), STFC (UK), HEFCE (UK). NCSA (UIUC), KICP (U. Chicago), CCAPP (Ohio State), MIFPA (Texas A&M), CNPQ, FAPERJ, FINEP (Brazil), DFG (Germany) and the Collaborating Institutions in the Dark Energy Survey. The Collaborating Institutions are Argonne Lab, UC Santa Cruz, University of Cambridge, CIEMAT-Madrid, University of Chicago, University College London, DES-Brazil Consortium, University of Edinburgh, ETH Zürich, Fermilab, University of Illinois, ICE (IEEC-CSIC), IFAE Barcelona, Lawrence Berkeley Lab, LMU München and the associated Excellence Cluster Universe, University of Michigan, NOAO, University of Nottingham, Ohio State University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Portsmouth, SLAC National Lab, Stanford University, University of Sussex, Texas A&M University and the OzDES Membership Consortium. Based in part on observations at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation. The DES Data Management System is supported by the NSF under grant numbers AST-1138766 and AST-1536171. The DES participants from Spanish institutions are partially supported by MINECO under grants AYA2015-71825, ESP2015-88861, FPA2015-68048, and Centro de Excelencia SEV-2012-0234, SEV-2016-0597 and MDM-2015-0509. Research leading to these results has received funding from the ERC under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme including grants ERC 240672, 291329 and 306478. We acknowledge support from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO), through project number CE110001020. This manuscript has been authored by Fermi Research Alliance, LLC under contract number DE-AC02-07CH11359 with the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of High Energy Physics. The United States Government retains and the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges that the United States Government retains a non-exclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, world-wide license to publish or reproduce the published form of this manuscript, or allow others to do so, for United States Government purposes. D.J.S. acknowledges support for the DLT40 programme from NSF grant AST-1517649. Support for I. Arcavi was provided by NASA through the Einstein Fellowship Program, grant PF6-170148. G. Hosseinzadeh, D.A.H. and C. McCully are supported by NSF grant AST-1313484. D. Poznanski acknowledges support by Israel Science Foundation grant 541/17. VINROUGE is an European Southern Observatory Large Survey (id: 0198.D-2010). MASTER acknowledges the Lomonosov MSU Development Programme and the Russian Federation Ministry of Education and Science. This research has made use of the NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database (NED), which is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with NASA.

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Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 Graphical model illustrating the statistical relationships between the data and parameters.

Open circles indicate parameters that require a prior; filled circles describe measured data, which are conditioned on in the analysis. Here we assume that we have measurements of the gravitational-wave data xGW, a recessional velocity (that is, redshift) vr, and the mean peculiar velocity in the neighborhood of NGC 4993 〈vp〉. Arrows flowing into a node indicate that the conditional probability density for the node depends on the source parameters; for example, the conditional distribution for the observed gravitational-wave data p(xGW | d, cosι) depends on the distance and inclination of the source (and additional parameters, here marginalized out).

Extended Data Figure 2 Using different assumptions compared to our canonical analysis.

The posterior distribution on H0 discussed in the main text is shown in black, the alternative flat prior on z (discussed in Methods) gives the distribution shown in blue, and the increased uncertainty (250 km s−1) applied to our peculiar velocity measurement (also discussed in Methods) is shown in pink. Minimal 68.3% (1σ) credible intervals are shown by dashed lines.

Extended Data Table 1 Summary of constraints on the Hubble constant, binary inclination and distance

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The LIGO Scientific Collaboration and The Virgo Collaboration., The 1M2H Collaboration., The Dark Energy Camera GW-EM Collaboration and the DES Collaboration. et al. A gravitational-wave standard siren measurement of the Hubble constant. Nature 551, 85–88 (2017).

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