What happens when two black holes orbit and merge together?
The recent discovery of gravitational waves from colliding black holes has given us a new window onto the universe. These “ripples” in spacetime were first predicted by Albert Einstein in his new theory of gravity; the general theory of relativity back in 1916. The theory also predicts the existence of black holes.
According to relativity, when two black holes orbit each other they would cause ripples in spacetime. These would then spread out like ripples in a pond when a stone is tossed in.
Though invisible, gravitational waves travel at the speed of light. But they can still take billions of years to reach us on Earth if they’re emitted from billions of light-years away. In 2015, they were first detected by the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory). Observing gravitational waves not only confirms Einstein’s predictions, but will shed new light on the internal physics of the most compact stars and on the expansion of the universe.
Join Professor Bernard Schutz at the Portsmouth Guildhall on December 17, where he will host an informative discussion about these exciting discoveries. He’ll be joined by a panel of leading experts in this emerging field of gravitational wave astronomy.
Cardiff University, UK
Bernard Schutz is a Professor in Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University. His work focuses on gravitational wave detection and astronomy; he is a senior member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. Starting in 1985 his Cardiff group pioneered the methods used today to recognise weak gravitational wave signals buried in noise. This led to discovering how gravitational waves enable us to measure distances across the universe, in recognition of which in 2019 he was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences and also received the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.
He is also an Emeritus Director of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Potsdam, Germany, where he was a director from 1995 until 2014. While there he established the open-access journal Living Reviews in Relativity. He is also Adjunct Professor of Physics at Georgia Institute of Technology in the USA.
Tanja Hinderer is a researcher in gravitational-wave astrophysics at the DeltaITP and GRAPPA institutes at the University of Amsterdam. She obtained her PhD in physics from Cornell University and was then a Sherman Fairchild Prize Fellow at Caltech, a research associate at the University of Maryland and the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, and an Excellence Fellow at Radboud University. Her research expertise is in analytical modeling and focuses on gravitational waves as probes of the fundamental physics of neutron stars, black holes, and strong-field gravity.
Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, Portsmouth, UK
Dr Laura Nuttall is a senior lecturer in gravitational waves in the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth. She received her PhD from the University of Cardiff, has held postdoctoral positions at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Syracuse University, and been a Marie Skłodowska-curie actions COFUND Fellow at Cardiff University. Her research focuses on extracting gravitational-wave signals from merging compact objects, as observed by LIGO, as well as observing the electromagnetic counterparts of gravitational-wave signals.
Institute for Gravitational Research, University of Glasgow, UK
Sheila Rowan is Chair of Natural Philosophy and, since 2009, Director of the Institute for Gravitational Research at the University of Glasgow. She received the Hoyle Medal and Prize of the Institute of Physics in 2016 in recognition of her pioneering research on aspects of the technology of gravitational wave observatories.
Bangalore Sathyaprakash is the Bert Elsbach Professor of Physics, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Associate Director of the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos at Penn State University. His research focuses on gravitational wave sources and science, algorithms for their detection and data analysis, and strong field tests of Einstein’s general relativity. He is currently leading an international consortium of scientists to develop the science case for the next generation of ground-based gravitational wave detectors.