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Gravitational wave science - observations and a forward look

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Sackler Lecture 2018

In September 2015 the twin ‘Advanced LIGO ’ observatories allowed the first direct detection of gravitational waves from astrophysical sources. The waves detected originated from the collision and merger of two black holes 1.3 billion light years from earth. This detection marked the start of new field of gravitational astrophysics, in the 100th anniversary year of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. This talk will discuss the discovery, cover the status of observations since then, some of the science emerging from gravitational wave studies to date and outline what the future of the field might look like.

Professor Rowan led one of the teams who contributed to the international LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory: collaboration. LIGO first detected gravitational waves in September 2015, 100 years after Einstein’s original prediction.

Shiela Rowan received her Bachelor of Science at the University of Glasgow and stayed on to complete her PhD. After her PhD, Rowan split her time between the University of Glasgow and the Edward Ginzton Laboratory at Stanford University. Since 2003, she has been based solely in Glasgow, and in 2006 was appointed Professor of Experimental Physics. In June 2016, Rowan was seconded (part-time) to Chief Scientific Advisor to the Scottish Government.

Professor Rowan’s research is targeted at the development of innovative low noise optical mirrors used in novel ‘gravitational’ observatories which are targeted at searching for gravitational signals from astrophysical systems in our Universe. This represents one of the most exciting challenges in experimental physics and astrophysics. It holds great potential for observing exotic objects such as black holes and neutron stars in a way not possible with optical, radio or other electromagnetic observations – through their pure gravitational signals.

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