Department or Program


Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

James Battat

Additional Advisor(s)

Marcelle Soares-Santos


In 2017, the LIGO/Virgo collaboration made history by detecting the ripples in space and time—gravitational waves (GW)—emitted by the merger of two neutron stars. Twelve hours later, telescopes detected the bright light produced by the merger—a kilonova. This joint detection marked the beginning of a new era in cosmology. Kilonova GW detections can provide the next generation of cosmological distance measurements, and when combined with redshift from an optical detection, these systems can be used to study the origin and evolution of the universe. Over the next 10 years, we expect LIGO/Virgo detectors to accumulate several times the current number of GW detections. Therefore, accurately measuring the distance is essential to maximize science gains. One problem is that the distance measurement from the GW waveform is degenerate with the inclination angle of the system. In this study, we explore the possibility of measuring the viewing angle solely from the optical signal by building an angle-dependent model of kilonova emission. We generate mock observations and use Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods to study the model's ability to recover the parameters of the data. The results of this thesis indicate that the model can be used to recover the viewing angle parameter.