High angular resolution gravitational wave astronomy

John Baker, Tessa Baker, Carmelita Carbone, Giuseppe Congedo, Carlo Contaldi, Irina Dvorkin, Jonathan Gair, Zoltan Haiman, David F. Mota, Arianna Renzini, Ernst-Jan Buis, Giulia Cusin, Jose Maria Ezquiaga, Guido Mueller, Mauro Pieroni, John Quenby, Angelo Ricciardone, Ippocratis D. Saltas, Lijing Shao, Nicola TamaniniGianmassimo Tasinato, Miguel Zumalacárregui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since the very beginning of astronomy the location of objects on the sky has been a fundamental observational quantity that has been taken for granted. While precise two dimensional positional information is easy to obtain for observations in the electromagnetic spectrum, the positional accuracy of current and near future gravitational wave detectors is limited to between tens and hundreds of square degrees, which makes it extremely challenging to identify the host galaxies of gravitational wave events or to confidently detect any electromagnetic counterparts. Gravitational wave observations provide information on source properties and distances that is complementary to the information in any associated electromagnetic emission and that is very hard to obtain in any other way. Observing systems with multiple messengers thus has scientific potential much greater than the sum of its parts. A gravitational wave detector with higher angular resolution would significantly increase the prospects for finding the hosts of gravitational wave sources and triggering a multi-messenger follow-up campaign. An observatory with arcminute precision or better could be realised within the Voyage 2050 programme by creating a large baseline interferometer array in space and would have transformative scientific potential. Precise positional information of standard sirens would enable precision measurements of cosmological parameters and offer new insights on structure formation; a high angular resolution gravitational wave observatory would allow the detection of a stochastic background and resolution of the anisotropies within it; it would also allow the study of accretion processes around black holes; and it would have tremendous potential for tests of modified gravity and the discovery of physics beyond the Standard Model.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages30
JournalExperimental Astronomy
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2021


  • astro-ph.HE
  • astro-ph.CO
  • astro-ph.IM
  • gr-qc


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