Spin-weighted spherical harmonics

Spin-weighted spherical harmonics are generalizations of the standard spherical harmonics and—like the usual spherical harmonics—are complex functions on the sphere. These harmonics are typically denoted by {}_sY_{lm}, where s is the "spin weight", and l and m are akin to the usual parameters familiar from the standard spherical harmonics. The spin-weighted spherical harmonics can be derived from the standard spherical harmonics by application of spin raising and lowering operators. In particular, the spin-weighted spherical harmonics of spin weight s=0 are simply the standard spherical harmonics::{}_0Y_{lm} = Y_{lm} .

Though these functions were first introduced by Ezra T. Newman and Roger Penrose to describe gravitational radiation [cite journal | title = Note on the Bondi-Metzner-Sachs Group | author = E. T. Newman and R. Penrose | journal = J. Math. Phys. | volume = 7 | number = 5 | pages = 863--870 | year = 1966 | month = May | publisher = American Institute of Physics | url = http://link.aip.org/link/?JMP/7/863/1 | doi = 10.1063/1.1931221] , they are quite general, and can be applied to other functions on a sphere.


The spin-weighted harmonics—like their standard relatives—are functions on a sphere. We select a point on the sphere, and rotate the sphere about that point by some angle psi. By definition, a function eta with "spin weight s" transforms as eta ightarrow e^{i s psi}eta.

Working in standard spherical coordinates, we can define a particular operator eth acting on a function eta as::etheta = - (sin{ heta})^s left{ frac{partial}{partial heta} + frac{i}{sin{ heta frac{partial} {partial phi} ight} left [ (sin{ heta})^{-s} eta ight] .This gives us another function of heta and phi. [The operator eth is effectively a covariant derivative operator in the sphere.]

An important property of the new function etheta is that if eta had spin weight s, etheta has spin weight s+1. Thus, the operator raises the spin weight of a function by 1. Similarly, we can define an operator which will lower the spin weight of a function by 1::aretheta = - (sin{ heta})^{-s} left{ frac{partial}{partial heta} - frac{i}{sin{ heta frac{partial} {partial phi} ight} left [ (sin{ heta})^{s} eta ight] .

The spin-weighted spherical harmonics are then defined in terms of the usual spherical harmonics as::{}_sY_{lm} = sqrt{frac{(l-s)!}{(l+s)! eth^s Y_{lm}, 0leq s leq l;:{}_sY_{lm} = sqrt{frac{(l+s)!}{(l-s)! (-1)^s areth^{-s} Y_{lm}, -lleq s leq 0;:{}_sY_{lm} = 0, l < |s| .The functions {}_sY_{lm} then have the property of transforming with spin weight s.

Other important properties include the following::ethleft({}_sY_{lm} ight) = +sqrt{(l-s)(l+s+1)} {}_{s+1}Y_{lm} ;:arethleft({}_sY_{lm} ight) = -sqrt{(l+s)(l-s+1)} {}_{s-1}Y_{lm} ;

Orthogonality and completeness

The harmonics are orthogonal over the entire sphere::int_{S^2} {}_sY_{lm} {}_sar{Y}_{l'm'} dS = delta_{ll'} delta_{mm'}, and satisfy the completeness relation:sum_{lm} {}_sar Y_{lm}( heta',phi') {}_s Y_{lm}( heta,phi) = delta(phi'-phi)delta(cos heta'-cos heta)


These harmonics can be explicitly calculated by several methods. The obvious recursion relation results from repeatedly applying the raising or lowering operators. Formulas for direct calculation were derived by Goldberg, et al. [cite journal | title = Spin-s Spherical Harmonics and ð | author = J. N. Goldberg and A. J. Macfarlane and E. T. Newman and F. Rohrlich and E. C. G. Sudarshan | journal = J. Math. Phys. | volume = 8 | number = 11 | pages = 2155--2161 | year = 1967 | month = November | doi = 10.1063/1.1705135 | publisher = American Institute of Physics | note = N.B.: Equations 2.11 and 3.1 seem to be off by a factor of (-1)^m | url = http://link.aip.org/link/?JMP/8/2155/1] . Note that their formulas use an old choice for the [http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Condon-ShortleyPhase.html Condon-Shortley phase] . The convention chosen below is in agreement with Mathematica, for instance.

The more useful of the Goldberg, et al., formulas is the following::{}_sY_{lm} ( heta, phi) = (-1)^m sqrt{ frac{(l+m)! (l-m)! (2l+1)} {4pi (l+s)! (l-s)!} } sin^{2l} left( frac{ heta}{2} ight) :::::: imessum_{r=0}^{l-s} {l-s choose r} {l+s choose r+s-m} (-1)^{l-r-s} e^{i m phi} cot^{2r+s-m} left( frac{ heta} {2} ight) .

A Mathematica notebook using this formula to calculate arbitrary spin-weighted spherical harmonics can be found [http://www.black-holes.org/SpinWeightedSphericalHarmonics.nb here] .

With the phase convention here {}_sar Y_{lm} = (-1)^{s+m}{}_{-s}Y_{l(-m)} and {}_sY_{lm}(pi- heta,phi+pi) = (-1)^l {}_{-s}Y_{lm}( heta,phi).

First few spin-weighted spherical harmonics

Analytic expressions for the first few orthonormalized spin-weighted spherical harmonics :

= Spin-1, degree l=1 =

:{}_1 Y_{10}( heta,phi) = sqrt{frac{3}{8pi,sin heta:{}_1 Y_{1pm 1}( heta,phi) = -sqrt{frac{3}{16pi(1 mp cos heta),e^{pm ivarphi}

Relation to Wigner rotation matrices

D^l_{-m s}(phi, heta,-psi) =(-1)^m sqrtfrac{4pi}{2l+1} {}_sY_{lm}( heta,phi) e^{ispsi}

This relation allows the spin harmonics to be calculated using recursion relations for the


cite journal | title = The relationship between monopole harmonics and spin-weighted spherical harmonics | author = Tevian Dray | journal = J. Math. Phys. | volume = 26 | number = 5 | pages = 1030--1033 | year = 1985 | month = May | doi = 10.1063/1.526533 | publisher = American Institute of Physics | url = http://link.aip.org/link/?JMP/26/1030/1 A more modern and somewhat generalized treatment.

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