Detecting Gravitational Wave Memory without Parent Signals

Phys Rev Lett. 2017 May 5;118(18):181103. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.118.181103. Epub 2017 May 4.


Gravitational-wave memory manifests as a permanent distortion of an idealized gravitational-wave detector and arises generically from energetic astrophysical events. For example, binary black hole mergers are expected to emit memory bursts a little more than an order of magnitude smaller in strain than the oscillatory parent waves. We introduce the concept of "orphan memory": gravitational-wave memory for which there is no detectable parent signal. In particular, high-frequency gravitational-wave bursts (≳kHz) produce orphan memory in the LIGO/Virgo band. We show that Advanced LIGO measurements can place stringent limits on the existence of high-frequency gravitational waves, effectively increasing the LIGO bandwidth by orders of magnitude. We investigate the prospects for and implications of future searches for orphan memory.