EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 422, Number 3, August II 2004
Page(s) 761 - 775
Section Astrophysical processes
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20034512

A&A 422, 761-775 (2004)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20034512

Scattering of gravitational radiation

Second order moments of the wave amplitude
J.-P. Macquart

Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen, The Netherlands
    e-mail: jpm@astro.rug.nl

(Received 14 October 2003 / Accepted 16 February 2004 )

Gravitational radiation that propagates through an inhomogeneous mass distribution is subject to random gravitational lensing, or scattering, causing variations in the wave amplitude and temporal smearing of the signal. A statistical theory is constructed to treat these effects. The statistical properties of the wave amplitude variations are a direct probe of the power spectrum of the mass distribution through which the waves propagate. Scattering temporally smears any intensity variations intrinsic to a source emitting gravitational radiation, rendering variability on time scales shorter than the temporal smearing time scale unobservable, and potentially making the radiation much harder to detect. Gravitational radiation must propagate out through the mass distribution of its host galaxy before it can be detected at the Earth. Plausible models for the distribution of matter in an L* host galaxy suggest that the temporal smearing time scale is at least several milliseconds due to the gas content alone, and may be as large as a second if dark matter also scatters the radiation. The smearing time due to scattering by any galaxy interposed along the line of sight is a factor ${\sim} 10^5$ times larger. Gravitational scattering is an excellent probe of matter on parsec and sub-parsec scales, and has the potential to elucidate the nature of dark matter.

Key words: gravitational lensing -- gravitational waves -- scattering -- galaxies: structure -- cosmology: dark matter

© ESO 2004