Physics students and faculty participated in an educational outreach event at the North East Astronomy Forum (NEAF), one of the world’s largest gatherings of the amateur astronomy community. As representatives of the LIGO collaboration, physics professor Rodica Martin and four Montclair physics students organized an exhibit booth on gravitational-wave astronomy.
LIGO—the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory—is an NSF-funded international experiment that is detecting ripples in the fabric of space and time from colliding black holes and neutron stars. The first detections were made in 2015, and include five pairs of merging black holes and one pair of merging neutron stars.
Elements of the exhibit included videos explaining the project, a gravity-based remake of the classic “Pong” video game, a small-scale laser interferometer, and a “spandex spacetime” illustrating the curvature of space near a massive object.
The NEAF event took place on April 21 and 22 at SUNY Rockland Community College in Suffern, NY. Montclair Physics students Lita De La Cruz, Valerie Avendano, Casey Kerkhof, and Xavier Euceda participated in the event and helped explain the various demonstrations and concepts to the public. In addition to well-known speakers, the annual NEAF event features a large array of telescope vendors, workshops and lectures on night-sky observing, and activities for children to learn about astronomy.