The Observation of Gravitational Waves


Prof. Tamara Davis (CAASTRO) and Prof. Warwick Bowen (EQuS), UQ
This colloquium will be held 3 pm, 18th March, in Frank White 43-102

Rarely has a physics discovery been more eagerly anticipated than the detection of gravitational waves.  On September 14th, 2015, the Laser Interferometric Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO) detected the coalescence of two black holes. Each was about 30 times the mass of our sun and the collision released 3 solar masses of energy.  This spectacular event reveals new information about astrophysics and massive stellar death, as well as being an absolutely phenomenal technical achievement.  The strain (change in length / length) [detected by LIGO] was a mere 10^-21… meaning over the 4 km arms of the interferometer, they measured a distance change less than 1/1000th of the effective diameter of a proton.  In this talk we will have a tag-team of Warwick Bowen talking about the physics of the detector and the Australian contributions to designing it, and Tamara Davis talking about the astrophysical implications and our optical and radio telescope follow-up campaigns.