From Stellar Dynamics to Compact Binaries: Unlocking the Future of Gravitational Waves
Since the first detection over three years ago, gravitational waves have promised to revolutionize our understanding of compact objects, binary evolution, general relativity, and cosmology. But to make that a reality, we need to understand how and where these relativistic binaries form. In this talk, I will describe the various astrophysical pathways for creating the binary mergers detected by LIGO/Virgo, and how specific features of the gravitational waves (such as the binary eccentricities and black hole spins) can shed light on the formation of these dark remnants. I will show how simple gravitational dynamics makes the centers of dense star clusters, particularly globular clusters, uniquely efficient at producing merging binaries. Finally, I will talk about the future of the field, and how gravitational-wave astronomy is poised to offer us unprecedented insights into physics, astrophysics, and cosmology over the coming years and decades.