In this lecture, Professor Mandel will discuss the detection of gravitational waves and explore the potential research opportunities arising from this revolutionary discovery.
On September 14, 2015, the instruments of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detected a disturbance. This tiny signal was the echo of a very loud song, sung by a pair of black holes merging more than a billion years ago during the last fraction of a second of their lives. This discovery heralded the conclusion of a decades-long search for one of the most difficult to test predictions of General Relativity, Einstein’s theory of gravity.
At the same time, this black-hole was the first note of a beautiful symphony to reach us through a newly opened window on the Universe. Through this window of gravitational-wave astronomy, we are already beginning to probe the secrets of strong-field gravity. In the next few years, we anticipate hearing many more songs coming from the mergers of compact remnants of massive stars: neutron stars and black holes. Like palaeontologists who use the skeletons of dinosaurs to discover what living dinosaurs looked like, we are beginning to study the evolutionary history of massive stars by observing their merging remnants.
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