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Luke Zoltan Kelley


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I'm graduate student in Astronomy and Astrophysics at Harvard University. My research interests surround a variety of high-energy, transient phenomena involving black holes, and neutron stars. Most of my research relates to Gravitational Waves—the traveling ripples in spacetime which have recently been detected by LIGO.

My thesis is with Prof. Lars Hernquist, on Massive Black-Hole (MBH) Binaries using the data from the Illustris cosmological, hydrodynamic simulations. We have created the most comprehensive models of the entire MBH binary merger process using realistic galactic environments and including a variety of physical effects. Using our population of MBH binaries, we calculate the gravitational wave (GW) signatures that their mergers will produce. Specifically, MBH binaries produce low-frequency GW that can be detected by Pulsar Timing Arrays (PTA) like NANOGrav. Our simulations suggest that PTA will likely detect these GW signatures within roughly the next decade.

My undergraduate degrees were in both physics and biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. There I worked with Prof. Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz on double neutron star binaries, and their properties as progenitors of LIGO gravitational-wave sources. Specifically, we studied i) what the distribution of sources should be relative to their host galaxies, and ii) how the electromagnetic signature NS-NS mergers produce can be used to boost LIGO's sensitivity when searching for GW signatures.

I'm a passionate runner and rock-climber (though not very good at either), and strive to be an ally and advocate of equity & diversity. I believe strongly in science benefitting society, and thus the importance of open-source codes, publicly accessible data, and education & outreach,

Papers [ADS]

Mouse-Over for abridged abstracts.
Coauthor website links can be found below.


Harvard University PhD Massive Black-Hole Binaries
Prof. Lars Hernquist & Laura Blecha
MS Black-Hole Jets and Tidal Disruption Events
Prof. Ramesh Narayan & Alexander Tchekhovskoy
UC Santa Cruz Junior Specialist Electromagnetic Triggers for LIGO
Prof. Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz & Ilya Mandel
BS, with Honors Physics (Astronomy & Astrophysics)
Compact Binaries as Gravitational Wave Sources
Prof. Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz & Ilya Mandel
Research Assistant Particle Collider Simulations
Prof. Bruce Schumm
BS, with Honors Biology (Molecular, Cellular & Developmental) 2005—2010


Laura Blecha University of Florida
Jürg Diemand University of Zurich
Jonathan Gair The University Of Edinburgh
Dimitrios Giannios Purdue University
James Guillochon Harvard University
Zoltan Haiman Columbia University
Lars Hernquist Harvard University
Bence Kocsis Eötvös University
Ilya Mandel University of Birmingham
Brian Metzger Columbia University
Ramesh Narayan Harvard University
Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz University of California, Santa Cruz
Alberto Sesana University of Birmingham
Stephen Taylor CalTech
Alexander Tchekhovskoy Northwestern University
Marcel Zemp D|ONE


Here's a reward for making it to the bottom of the page. It's a toy simulation I wrote while trying to learn some JavaScript and D3. The source can be found on github. The two "black holes" are initialized with a random mass-ratio, a circular orbit, and a fixed period. The particles are a small, but non-negligible fraction of each BH's mass so that their growth is apparent. Please let me know if there are any issues on your system/browser.

Interests & Buzzwords:

Astrophysics, Transients, Gravitational Waves, Black Holes, Binaries, Tidal Disruptions, Compact Binaries, Gamma Ray Bursts, Supernovae, Pulsar Timing Arrays, NANOGrav, LIGO, Open source, Public data, Equity & Diversity, Education & Outreach