Dr. Markus Upmeier
Let X be a compact manifold, D a real elliptic operator on X, G a Lie group, P a principal G-bundle on X, and B_P the infinite-dimensional moduli space of all connections on P modulo gauge, as a topological stack. For each connection \nabla_P, we can consider the twisted elliptic operator on X. This is a continuous family of elliptic operators over the base B_P, and so has an orientation bundle O^D_P over B_P, a principal Z_2-bundle parametrizing orientations of KerD^\nabla_Ad(P) + CokerD^\nabla_Ad(P) at each \nabla_P. An orientation on (B_P,D) is a trivialization of O^D_P.
In gauge theory one studies moduli spaces M of connections \nabla_P on P satisfying some curvature condition, such as anti-self-dual instantons on Riemannian 4-manifolds (X, g). Under good conditions M is a smooth manifold, and orientations on (B_P,D) pull back to
orientations on M in the usual sense of differential geometry.
This is important in areas such as Donaldson theory, where one needs an orientation on M
to define enumerative invariants.
We explain a package of techniques, some known and some new, for proving orientability and constructing canonical orientations on (B_P,D), after fixing some algebro-topological information on X. We use these to construct canonical orientations on gauge theory moduli spaces, including new results for moduli spaces of flat connections on 2- and 3-manifolds,
instantons, the Kapustin-Witten equations, and the Vafa-Witten equations on 4-manifolds, and the Haydys-Witten equations on 5-manifolds.
Suppose (X, g) is a compact, spin Riemannian 7-manifold, with Dirac operator D. Let G be SU(m) or U(m), and E be a rank m complex bundle with G-structure on X. Write B_E for the infinite-dimensional moduli space of connections on E, modulo gauge. There is a natural principal Z_2-bundle O^D_E on B_E parametrizing orientations of det D_Ad A for twisted elliptic operators D_Ad A at each [A] in B_E. A theorem of Walpuski shows O^D_E is trivializable.
We prove that if we choose an orientation for det D, and a flag structure on X in the sense of Joyce arXiv:1610.09836, then we can define canonical trivializations of O^D_E for all such bundles E on X, satisfying natural compatibilities.
Now let (X,\varphi,g) be a compact G_2-manifold, with d(*\varphi)=0. Then we can consider moduli spaces M_E^G_2 of G_2-instantons on E over X, which are smooth manifolds under suitable transversality conditions, and derived manifolds in general. The restriction of O^D_E to M_E^G_2 is the Z_2-bundle of orientations on M_E^G_2. Thus, our theorem induces canonical orientations on all such G_2-instanton moduli spaces M_E^G_2.
This contributes to the Donaldson-Segal programme arXiv:0902.3239, which proposes defining enumerative invariants of G_2-manifolds (X,\varphi,g) by counting moduli spaces M_E^G_2, with signs depending on a choice of orientation. This paper is a sequel to Joyce-Tanaka-Upmeier arXiv:1811.01096, which develops the general theory of orientations on gauge-theoretic moduli spaces, and gives applications in dimensions 3,4,5 and 6.