Gravitational waves: exploring the extremes of physics and astronomy

Yanbei Chen - Caltech
Event Date and Time: 
Mon, 2017-01-23 19:00 - 21:30
St. John's College - Fairmont Lounge / 2111 Lower Mall (UBC)
Local Contact: 
Swarn Rai - 604-822-1383 or
Intended Audience: 

Einstein's theory of gravity and spacetime predicts that a massive star, after exhausting its nuclear fuel, will become a black hole, which distorts space-time to produce an "event horizon", where gravity is so strong that one can only enter but not escape. Space-time is also dynamic: oscillating space-time distortions will move at the speed of light, as gravitational waves. The search for gravitational waves started in the 1960s, finally succeeding in September 2015, when waves from two colliding black holes 1.3 billion light years away were caught by the two detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory. During a pulse of 0.2 seconds, mirrors separated by 4 kms were moved by several times 10^-18 meters, around 1000th the size of an atomic nucleus. A second black-hole collision was detected in December, 2015. These detections opened a new window on the universe. In the future, gravitational-wave observations will not only allow us to better study black holes, including their histories of formation and their detailed structures, but will also reveal other violent processes in the universe.

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