Improved Upper Limits on the Stochastic Gravitational-Wave Background from 2009-2010 LIGO and Virgo Data

LIGO Scientific Collaboration, Virgo Collaboration

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Gravitational waves from a variety of sources are predicted to superpose to create a stochastic background. This background is expected to contain unique information from throughout the history of the Universe that is unavailable through standard electromagnetic observations, making its study of fundamental importance to understanding the evolution of the Universe. We carry out a search for the stochastic background with the latest data from the LIGO and Virgo detectors. Consistent with predictions from most stochastic gravitational-wave background models, the data display no evidence of a stochastic gravitational-wave signal. Assuming a gravitational-wave spectrum of Omega(GW)(f) = Omega(alpha)(f/f(ref))(alpha), we place 95% confidence level upper limits on the energy density of the background in each of four frequency bands spanning 41.5-1726 Hz. In the frequency band of 41.5-169.25 Hz for a spectral index of alpha = 0, we constrain the energy density of the stochastic background to be Omega(GW)(f) < 5.6 x 10(-6). For the 600-1000 Hz band, Omega(GW)(f) < 0.14(f/900 Hz)(3), a factor of 2.5 lower than the best previously reported upper limits. We find Omega(GW)(f) < 1.8 x 10(-4) using a spectral index of zero for 170-600 Hz and Omega(GW)(f) < 1.0(f/1300 Hz)(3) for 1000-1726 Hz, bands in which no previous direct limits have been placed. The limits in these four bands are the lowest direct measurements to date on the stochastic background. We discuss the implications of these results in light of the recent claim by the BICEP2 experiment of the possible evidence for inflationary gravitational waves.
Original languageEnglish
Article number231101
Number of pages10
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes



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