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We investigate the computational requirements for all-sky, all-frequency searches for gravitational waves from spinning neutron stars, using archived data from interferometric gravitational wave detectors such as LIGO. These sources are expected to be weak, so the optimal strategy involves coherent accumulaton of signal-to-noise using Fourier transforms of long stretches of data (months to years). Earth-motion-induced Doppler shifts, and intrinsic pulsar spindown, will reduce the narrow-band signal-to-noise by spreading power across many frequency bins; therefore, it is necessary to correct for these effects before performing the Fourier transform. The corrections can be implemented by a parametrized model, in which one does a search over a discrete set of parameter values. We define a metric on this parameter space, which can be used to determine the optimal spacing between points in a search; the metric is used to compute the number of independent parameter-space points Np that must be searched, as a function of observation time T. The number Np(T) depends on the maximum gravitational wave frequency and the minimum spindown age tau=f/(df/dt) that the search can detect. The signal-to-noise ratio required, in order to have 99% confidence of a detection, also depends on Np(T). We find that for an all-sky, all-frequency search lasting T=10^7 s, this detection threshhold is at a level of 4 to 5 times h(3/yr), where h(3/yr) is the corresponding 99% confidence threshhold if one knows in advance the pulsar position and spin period.


©1998 American Physical Society. Original published version available at

Publication Title

Physical Review D





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