Songs from the Milky Way: Our Galaxy in Low-Frequency Gravitational Waves

Shane L. Larson
Department of Physics
Utah State University


The Milky Way galaxy is populated by vast numbers of short period binary stars whose combined gravitational wave emission will produce a resounding signal over much of the low-frequency gravitational wave band.  While this loud chorus of signals will compete and often drown out other interesting gravitational wave sources (like the faint chirp of black holes sucking up smaller stars), the gravitational wave foreground of the galaxy will provide an unprecedented opportunity to learn about the shape and density distribution of stars in the Milky Way, to learn how short-period binary systems evolve and mature, and possibly to learn about the content of the dark halo of the galaxy.

In this talk, we'll discuss the nature of the galactic binary gravitational wave foreground, review how space based detectors like LISA will perceive this important population of stars, and explore the science that we hope to pursue through detailed studies of individual binary star systems.