TH Cosmo Coffee

Speed of Gravitational Waves and the Fate of Scalar-Tensor Gravity

by Dario Bettoni (U. Heidelberg, ITP)

4-2-011 - TH common room (CERN)

4-2-011 - TH common room


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The direct detection of gravitational waves is an invaluable new tool to probe gravity and the nature of cosmic acceleration.  A large class of scalar-tensor theories predict that GWs propagate with velocity different than the speed of light. I will discuss the conditions behind the anomalous GW speed, namely that the scalar field spontaneously breaks Lorentz invariance and couples to the metric perturbations via the Weyl tensor. If these are realized in nature, the delay between GW and electromagnetic (EM) signals from distant events will run beyond human timescales, making it impossible to measure the speed of GWs using neutron star mergers or other violent events. I will present a robust strategy to exclude or confirm an anomalous speed of GWs using eclipsing binary systems, whose EM phase can  be  exquisitely  determined. This test will either eliminate many contender models for cosmic acceleration or challange a fundamental pillar of general relativity.

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