Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Kristen Thompson, Dr. Michelle Kuchera
Possessing the strongest magnetic fields in the Universe, a group of rapidly rotating pulsars known as magnetars represent an extremum of our understanding of physical phenomena. The strength of such magnetic fields is sufficient to deform the shape of the stellar surface, and when the rotational and magnetic axes are not aligned, these deformations are thought to lead to the production of gravitational waves (GWs). Such GWs would differ from signals presently detectable by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), as these signals would be continuous rather than the momentary “chirp” detected waveforms of past LIGO inspiral binary merger events. Here, we construct a model for magnetar stellar structure with strong internal magnetic fields. Via computational modeling, we measure the deformation of magnetar stellar structure to determine upper bounds on the strength of continuous gravitational waves as a result of these deformations inducing non-axisymmetric rotation. This work seeks to inform the sensitivity of future iterations of GW detectors such as Advanced LIGO and the Einstein Telescope to continuous GW signals resulting from magnetars. Detection of these signals would provide key insight into the extreme structure of these stars, and potentially inform our understanding of the highly-dense physical environment of the Universe shortly following the Big Bang.