The binary black hole explorer: on-the-fly visualizations of precessing binary black holes

Vijay Varma, Leo C. Stein, and Davide Gerosa

2019 Class. Quantum Grav. 36 095007 [arXiv:1811.06552] [doi:10.1088/1361-6382/ab0ee9]

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Binary black hole mergers are of great interest to the astrophysics community, not least because of their promise to test general relativity in the highly dynamic, strong field regime. Detections of gravitational waves from these sources by LIGO and Virgo have garnered widespread media and public attention. Among these sources, precessing systems (with misaligned black-hole spin/orbital angular momentum) are of particular interest because of the rich dynamics they offer. However, these systems are, in turn, more complex compared to nonprecessing systems, making them harder to model or develop intuition about. Visualizations of numerical simulations of precessing systems provide a means to understand and gain insights about these systems. However, since these simulations are very expensive, they can only be performed at a small number of points in parameter space. We present binaryBHexp, a tool that makes use of surrogate models of numerical simulations to generate on-the-fly interactive visualizations of precessing binary black holes. These visualizations can be generated in a few seconds, and at any point in the 7-dimensional parameter space of the underlying surrogate models. With illustrative examples, we demonstrate how this tool can be used to learn about precessing binary black hole systems.