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Measuring Storms in Space-Time: Astronomy with Gravitational Radiation

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Date: MONDAY, February 20th, 2017

Speaker:  Robert Ward, Department of Quantum Science, Australian National University


On September 14, 2015, the LIGO detectors recorded the first direct observation by humankind of gravitational waves — space-time distortions generated by objects with extreme gravity. These waves propagate over astrophysical distances and can be detected by the modulation imposed on the optical path of a suspended mirror laser interferometer. We now have a new form of radiation with which to study the Universe. The level of displacement sensitivity which enabled the first detections, less than 1 part in 10,000 of a proton diameter, mandates not only significant isolation from environmental noise, but also a readout scheme capable of measurement at this level. I will discuss gravitational waves and the technology developed to detect them, including the optical metrology techniques that enable the Advanced LIGO detectors to reach their extraordinary sensitivity and how we extract the signals necessary to control the interferometer. I will describe what we have observed so far and what we hope to learn about the universe with this new astronomical messenger

Host: Jim Brau

Time: 4:00-5:00pm
Location: 123 PACIFIC HALL

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