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Probing the Dark Side of the Universe with Gravitational Waves

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Rebecca Bowler.

Gravitational waves – the “ripples in spacetime” predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity – are believed to be produced by some of the most violent events in the cosmos: gamma ray bursts, colliding black holes, supernova explosions, even the Big Bang itself. And yet by the time these ripples reach the Earth they are incredibly weak – typically producing movements less than a thousandth the width of a proton. Consequently the quest to detect gravitational waves directly presents an enormous technological challenge and has led to the design and construction of a worldwide network of laser interferometric detectors that are the most sensitive scientific instruments ever built.

In this talk, Dr. Martin Hendry will highlight the nascent field of gravitational wave astronomy, using gravitational wave detectors as telescopes to help answer a wide range of astrophysical questions from neutron-star physics to cosmology. The next generation of ground-based telescopes should be able to make extensive gravitational observations of some of the more energetic events in our local universe. Looking only slightly further ahead, within the next 10 to 15 years the space-based LISA observatory should reveal the gravitational universe in phenomenal detail, supplying high-quality data on perhaps thousands of gravitational wave sources. These data should allow us to tackle some of the most fascinating problems in astrophysics – from the origin of black holes to the nature of dark energy.

The talk will be held in the Pharmacology Lecture Theatre on Wednesday 27th January at 8.00pm. It’s free for members and £2 for non-members, and includes a wine reception afterwards in the tea room upstairs.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Physics Society series.

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