Addressing Data Analysis Challenges in Gravitational Wave Searches Using the Particle Swarm Optimization Algorithm




Weerathunga, Thilina Shihan

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Gravitational waves are a fundamental prediction of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. The first experimental proof of their existence was provided by the Nobel Prize winning discovery by Taylor and Hulse of orbital decay in a binary pulsar system. The first detection of gravitational waves incident on earth from an astrophysical source was announced in 2016 by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, launching the new era of gravitational wave (GW) astronomy. The signal detected was from the merger of two black holes, which is an example of sources called Compact Binary Coalescences (CBCs). Data analysis strategies used in the search for CBC signals are derivatives of the Maximum-Likelihood (ML) method. The ML method applied to data from a network of geographically distributed GW detectors –called fully coherent network analysis – is currently the best approach for estimating source location and GW polarization waveforms. However, in the case of CBCs, especially for lower mass systems (O(1M_ʘ)) such as double neutron star binaries, fully coherent network analysis is computationally expensive. The ML method requires locating the global maximum of the likelihood function over a nine dimensional parameter space, where the computation of the likelihood at each point requires correlations involving ~O(10^4) to O(10^6) samples between the data and the corresponding candidate signal waveform template. Approximations, such as semi-coherent coincidence searches, are currently used to circumvent the computational barrier but incur a concomitant loss in sensitivity. We explored the effectiveness of Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO), a well-known algorithm in the field of swarm intelligence, in addressing the fully coherent network analysis problem. As an example, we used a four-detector network consisting of the two LIGO detectors at Hanford and Livingston, Virgo and Kagra, all having initial LIGO noise power spectral densities, and show that PSO can locate the global maximum with less than 240,000 likelihood evaluations for a component mass range of 1.0 to 10.0 solar masses at a realistic coherent network signal to noise ratio of 9.0. Our results show that PSO can successfully deliver a fully-coherent all-sky search with < (1/10 ) the number of likelihood evaluations needed for a grid-based search. Used as a follow-up step, the savings in the number of likelihood evaluations may also reduce latency in obtaining ML estimates of source parameters in semi-coherent searches.


This item is available only to currently enrolled UTSA students, faculty or staff. To download, navigate to Log In in the top right-hand corner of this screen, then select Log in with my UTSA ID.


Astronomical data analysis, Compact binary inspiral search, Gravitational wave detector network, Gravitational waves, Numerical optimization, Particle swarm optimization



Physics and Astronomy