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The detection and analysis of the first gravitational-wave observations

February 22, 2017, 10:20 am - 11:20 am
Location Richardson Hall - 261
Posted InCollege of Science and Mathematics
Mathematical Sciences Seminar Seminar

Collin Capano, Albert Einstein Institute


On September 14, 2015 the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected a gravitational wave from the merger of two black holes. This event, GW150914, was the first direct detection of a gravitational wave and the first observation of a coalescing binary black hole, both of which are major milestones in observational astronomy. It was followed by a second detection, GW151226, on December 26, 2015. Gravitational waves are extremely weak. At its peak amplitude, GW150914 caused a test mass to move by ~1/1000th the width of a proton with respect to another mass 4km away. GW151226 was weaker still. I will discuss the data analysis techniques used to make such sensitive measurements, explaining how we were able to confidently claim detection of these events. I will also discuss what we were able to learn about the sources of these gravitational waves, and how we can use these and future detections to test predictions of analytical relativity, such as Stephen Hawking's area theorem.