Listening to Einstein's Universe: the Detection of Gravitational Waves

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Tuesday 22 May 2018, 05:30pm - 06:30pm

Location Room 116, new Mathematics & Statistics Building, University of Glasgow, University Place, Glasgow G12 8SQ

Speaker: Martin Hendry is Professor of Gravitational Astrophysics and Cosmology at the University of Glasgow, where he is also Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy.  His primary research interests lie in gravitational-wave astronomy, and more broadly in the application of innovative methods to characterise and correct for observational selection effects in astronomical data sets.   He is a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, a global team of more than 1000 scientists leading the search for gravitational waves, and he is currently chair of the LSC’s Education and Public Outreach group.

On September 14th 2015 the twin LIGO observatories in Louisiana and Washington state, the most sensitive scientific instruments ever built, made the first ever direct detection of gravitational waves – tiny ripples in spacetime predicted one hundred years ago by Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and produced by the collision of two massive black holes more than a billion years ago.  This remarkable discovery was widely hailed as one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of the century and led to the award of the Nobel Prize for Physics in December 2017.  Since that first detection, several more black hole merger events have been observed, and in August 2017 the collision of two neutron stars was seen not just by LIGO – and its European counterpart, Virgo – but was also detected across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, opening an entirely new “multi-messenger” window on the Universe.
The detection and characterisation of gravitational-wave sources presents a wide range of interesting statistical challenges - due to the extremely faint nature of the signals, the intricate and complex structure of the many sources of detector noise, the many subtle observational selection effects to which the source populations are subject and the limited directional information that can be inferred from the gravitational-wave data alone.  This talk will summarise what we have learned so far about the remarkable gravitational-wave sources that have been detected, and the many fascinating statistical challenges that must be overcome in this exciting new field of astronomy.

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Followed by drinks and nibbles

Organiser Name Charis Chanialidis

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