Identification and follow up of electromagnetic counterparts of gravitational wave candidate events

The LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) and the Virgo Collaboration currently plan to start taking data in 2015, and we expect the sensitivity of the network to improve over time. Gravitational-wave transient candidates will be identified promptly upon acquisition of the data; we aim for distributing information with an initial latency of a few tens of minutes initially, possibly improving later. The LSC and the Virgo Collaboration (LVC) wish to enable multi-messenger observations of astrophysical events by GW detectors along with a wide range of telescopes and instruments of mainstream astronomy.

In 2012, the LVC approved a statement (LSC, Virgo) that broadly outlines LVC policy on releasing GW triggers (partially-validated event candidates). Initially, triggers will be shared promptly only with astronomy partners who have signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with LVC involving an agreement on deliverables, publication policies, confidentiality, and reporting. After four GW events have been published, further event candidates with high confidence will be shared immediately with the entire astronomy community (and the public), while lower-significance candidates will continue to be shared promptly only with partners who have signed a MoU.

Through June to October 2013, we organized rounds of consultations with groups of astronomers that have expressed interest in the GW-EM follow-up program. Thanks to these consultations, we could define the framework and guiding rules for this program that are collected into a standard MoU template.

Open call for participation to GW-EM follow-up program, due Feb 16 2014.

On Dec 16 2013, we issued a call for proposals to sign standard MoU with the LVC. This call is open to all professional astronomers with demonstrated experience, and require that a partner bring some useful observing resource(s), not just astronomy expertise, to participate. GW triggers will be sent to groups that are in position to make observations in the course of next science runs circa 2015-2017 (arXiv:1304.0670, LIGO-P1200087, VIR-0288A-12). Our intent is to accept and sign MoUs with all qualified applicants. We expect to issue this call yearly in spring.

If you are interested in signing this agreement with LSC and Virgo, please read this document that provides important details of the GW-EM follow-up program, fill the application form in LIGO-F1300021, and email it to Also, please fill the information fields below (including the filename of the file you emailed to us) and submit it before Feb 16, 2014.

All fields are required.


Primary Investigator (who will sign the MOU):

(E.g., Principal Investigator/Director/Spokesperson/Team Leader of XXXXX)

(A confirmation message and all follow-up communication will be sent to this address)

Application file:

We welcome comments on this process sent to (Gabriela González), and to (Jean-Yves Vinet).

Useful links and documents

December 2013 Open Call for Partnership for the EM Identification and Follow-up of GW Candidate Events
December 2013 Template for the Agreement Regarding Follow-up Observations of Gravitational Wave Event Candidates
August/September 2013 Discussion Meeting about agreements for LIGO-Virgo Event Follow-up Program in Amsterdam and Chicago
June 2013 Open Call for Letters of Interest
April 2013 Prospects for Localization of Gravitational Wave Transients by the Advanced LIGO and Advanced Virgo Observatories
January  2013 LIGO Data Management Plan
May  2012 LSC and VIRGO policy on releasing gravitational wave triggers to the public in the advanced detector era

Devour thy Neighbor: An artist's illustration of two neutron stars close to merger look misshaped, becoming more oblong the closer they get to one another. A black hole is then formed and gamma rays shoot out as a GRB. (Credit: NASA/Swift)