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Listening to the Music of the Universe

As a Liberty Science Center guest speaker, Professor Marc Favata will explore the ways we can “listen” to space and time

Posted in: Research, Science and Technology

A man looks through a glass plate covered with physics equations.
Physics Professor Marc Favata will explore the mysteries of space on March 2 as a guest astronomer at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City.

Montclair State University Physics Professor Marc Favata will turn up the volume on the soundtrack of spacetime when he leads a Space Talk on March 2 at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City – the country’s largest planetarium. The Space Talk lecture series is billed as a “cosmic conversation” shining light on new areas of astronomy.

While the Hubble and James Webb telescopes produce amazing images of our cosmos, Favata’s “Cosmic Clues from Gravitational Waves” will explore the way scientists listen to the ripples of gravity to observe the mysteries of space and time. The gravitational waves – which evoke the image of a pebble being dropped into a pool of water, sending out gentle ripples through the universe – provide a kind of drumbeat that reveals more about colliding black holes and neutron stars than conventional telescopes.

“Gravitational waves are cool,” Favata says, “and we can use them to explore the universe in a different way than we have before, in a way that’s more like listening than watching. I’ll be talking about why they’re exciting, and what we can do with these new observations.”

Favata contributes to this research as a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. In 2015 the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) made the first-ever detection of gravitational waves produced by the merger of two black holes.

“I want to help focus the public’s attention on that discovery,” he says. “It’s a huge project with lots of people, including myself and two other Montclair faculty members who each contribute a small piece to the bigger puzzle.”

Physics and Astronomy Department Chair Marc Favata
Physics and Astronomy Department Chair Marc Favata

At Montclair, where he is also chair of the Physics and Astronomy department, Favata’s research focuses on modeling gravitational-waves from colliding neutron stars and black holes, and using those waves to explore the properties of stellar collisions and test Einstein’s theory of relativity.

The Liberty Science Center presentation is part of the LSC After Dark series, an adult event with food and cocktails, beginning at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 2. Favata’s presentation promises an audio of the sounds of spacetime, followed by an after-talk program featuring U2 and Foo Fighters laser shows, food and cocktails, and museum exhibitions.

Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren. Photos by University Photographer Mike Peters.

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