Bayesian parameter estimation using conditional variational autoencoders for gravitational-wave astronomy

Gravitational wave (GW) detection is now commonplace and as the sensitivity of the global network of GW detectors improves, we will observe $\mathcal{O}(100)$s of transient GW events per year. The current methods used to estimate their source parameters employ optimally sensitive but computationally costly Bayesian inference approaches where typical analyses have taken between 6 hours and 5 days. For binary neutron star and neutron star black hole systems prompt counterpart electromagnetic (EM) signatures are expected on timescales of 1 second -- 1 minute and the current fastest method for alerting EM follow-up observers, can provide estimates in $\mathcal{O}(1)$ minute, on a limited range of key source parameters. Here we show that a conditional variational autoencoder pre-trained on binary black hole signals can return Bayesian posterior probability estimates. The training procedure need only be performed once for a given prior parameter space and the resulting trained machine can then generate samples describing the posterior distribution $\sim 6$ orders of magnitude faster than existing techniques.

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