Stellar Spectacles – Gravitational Waves: What They Reveal About the Universe and How We…

Abstract: Detections of gravitational waves (‘ripples in spacetime’) produced by colliding black holes and neutron stars in the past six years have produced startling revelations about the most violent events in the Universe. Beginning in late 2015 with the first direct detection of a merging binary black hole system, we are beginning to answer fundamental and long standing questions about the nature of black holes, neutron stars, gravity, and even how heavy elements are produced.

Enabling these discoveries are interferometers capable of measuring exquisitely small strains produced by passing gravitational waves. In this presentation, I’ll give an overview of gravitational-wave astrophysics, highlight some of the most exciting discoveries, and discuss how we detect gravitational waves with LIGO using really big interferometers capable of sensing displacements to better than 1/1000 the diameter of a proton.

Speaker biography: Professor David Reitze holds joint positions as the Executive Director of the LIGO Laboratory and Research Professor at the California Institute of Technology. He obtained a Ph. D. in Physics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1990 and spent more than 20 years as a Professor of Physics at the University of Florida. His research focuses on the development of ultrasensitive gravitational-wave detectors and gravitational-wave astronomy. Reitze was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society (2006), and the US Optical Society (2015), and the American Association of the Advancement of Science (2019). He was awarded the National Academy of Sciences Award for Scientific Discovery in 2017 for his leadership role in LIGO. He is a member and former Spokesperson of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration that received numerous awards for the first direct detection of gravitational waves in 2015, including the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (2016), the Gruber Prize for Cosmology (2016), the American Astronomical Society Bruno Rossi Prize (2017), the Royal Astronomical Society Group Achievement Award ‘A’ (2017), the Princess Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Achievement (2017), and the Einstein Medal from the Einstein Society of Switzerland (2017). He serves on numerous advisory committees for the international physics and astronomy communities.

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