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Astronomy

Martin Hendry plenary: Gravitational Wave Astronomy: Opening New Windows on the Universe

A plenary talk from SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation 2016

22 July 2016, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3201607.12

Martin Hendry Univ. of Glasgow (United Kingdom)

Gravitational waves are the ripples in space-time predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity, produced by some of the most violent astrophysical events in the cosmos: supernovae, colliding black holes, even the Big Bang itself. By the time gravitational waves reach the Earth, however, they are incredibly weak - their direct detection  requires precision displacement measurements at the level of about one part in ten to the 21 or less - presenting enormous scientific and technological challenges.

In this plenary session, Martin Hendry of the University of Glasgow, whose team was involved with construction and installation of the LIGO facilities, details work that preceded last September's discovery of gravitaional waves and descried the development of the project. There are further gains to come from Advanced LIGO as well as LISA Pathfinder, Hendry says, so "watch this spacetime." 

Hendry reviews the history and current status of the emerging field of gravitational-wave astronomy, highlighting the remarkable technology that underpins a range of projects spanning the gravitational-wave spectrum. He also highlights the current status and future prospects of research in these two gravitational-wave windows on the cosmos - with the first science run of the Advanced LIGO ground-based interferometers completed in early 2016 and the successful launch of ESA's LISA Pathfinder mission in December 2015. 

Martin Hendry is Professor of Gravitational Astrophysics and Cosmology at the University of Glasgow, where he is currently head of the School of Physics and Astronomy. He is a member of Glasgow's Institute for Gravitational Research, which for many years has played a leading role in the global development, design, construction, and operation of ground- and space-based gravitational-wave detectors - including both Initial LIGO and Advanced LIGO, and LISA Pathfinder.