Probing the Cosmos in Gravitational Waves

February 5  SONGS FROM THE STELLAR GRAVEYARD: Probing the Cosmos in Gravitational Waves”, Presented by Shane Larson, CIERA,Northwestern University.

Discovered almost exactly 100 years after Einstein’s general theory of relativity predicted their existence, gravitational waves were first detected on September 14, 2015, by the paired LIGO observatories (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory). Before LIGO, virtually everything we know about the Universe has been discovered from the study of photons — light in all its myriad forms from radio waves, to visible light, to x-rays and beyond.  Now at the dawn of the 21st century, one of the most incredible pieces of advanced technology is providing access to the Cosmos through detection of ripples in the very fabric of spacetime itself.

These ripples in spacetime, called gravitational waves, carry information not in the form of light or particles, but in the form of gravity itself. Over the past two years, the first gravitational wave signals from the Cosmos have been detected here on Earth, revealing a dynamic and energetic Universe that has previously only been speculated about. Gravitational wave observations have revealed black holes dancing a death spiral billions of lightyears from Earth, and neutron stars ripping themselves apart in a titanic burst of light and gravitational energy.


This talk will explore what gravitational waves are and how we measure them, as well as what we are learning from their detection. Gravity has a story to tell, and in this talk, we’ll explore some of the discoveries being made by listening to gravity itself. Video1  Video2