Using computers to hunt for gravitational waves
Even for the best of the current detectors, all gravitational wave signals are well-hidden in the noise from sources as various as seismic vibrations and the quantum structure of light. That's why computer-aided analysis is indispensable - a systematic search for characteristic gravitational wave signals among the noise dominating the detector output. However, the computational cost is high: For instance, the periodic wave signal from a rotating neutron star (see animation) with a slight irregularity that makes it radiate gravitational waves varies, depending on how fast the star rotates and on its position in the sky. An ordinary personal computer would take about 5000 years to look for all suitable variations of this signals in the data generated by a gravitational wave detector within one week.