Public Lecture

Gravitational Waves and Einstein: Explaining the binary black hole system discovery event by LIGO

Date & time

Thu 5 May 2016, 6–7.15pm



Llewellyn Hall


Staff, students and public welcome


Professor Susan Scott, Daniel Shaddock and Robert Ward
Australian National University

On the 14th of September last year, the two giant detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) in the United States intercepted the gravitational wave signal from a violent event which occurred in space 1.3 billion years ago. That event was the final collision of two massive black holes, which had been orbiting each other and spiralling towards each other in a cosmic dance as gravitational waves radiated from the system. We captured the cataclysmic moment when the two black holes collided and merged to form one larger black hole, weighing as much as 62 suns.

In this public lecture three members of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, the team that discovered gravitational waves, will explain the recently announced first detection of gravitational waves. They will explain Einstein's role in this discovery, what gravitational waves are, how gravitational wave detectors on Earth and in space work, and the amazing astrophysics and secrets of the Universe we expect to unlock using our new gravitational wave window on the Universe.

About the speakers

Professor Susan Scott is Professor of Theoretical Physics at ANU. Her research field is gravitational physics, including general relativity, cosmology and gravitational waves; she is an international expert on space-time singularities and black holes.

Professor Daniel Shaddock is Professor of Physics at ANU. His main area of expertise is precision measurements using laser interferometry. Before joining the ANU he was a Director's Fellow at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he worked on the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission.

Dr Robert Ward has been working in gravitational wave detection since 2003, when he joined the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) lab as a PhD student at the California Institute of Technology.  There he worked at the 40m interferometer, prototyping the Advanced LIGO and searching for a stochastic background of gravitational waves. He is now a Research Fellow in the Centre for Gravitational Physics at ANU.

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