ASTRONOMERS ANTICIPATE MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT FROM GRAVITATIONAL WAVE OBSERVATORY

Exactly 100 years after Einstein predicted that accelerating masses emit an invisible radiation that makes ripples in space-time, an international team led by US scientists are poised to make a major announcement concerning their search for these elusive “gravitational waves”. The results are eagerly anticipated by astronomers all over the world.

The existence of gravitational waves is a strong prediction of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, The predicted ripples in the fabric of the cosmos make space itself shrink and stretch by very, very small amounts, less than one part in ten thousand billion billion. Consequently, gravitational waves are extremely hard to detect.

Situated in Louisiana and Washington State, USA, the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (aLIGO), began making observations in September 2015. The teams expected to detect gravitational waves from neutron-star and black-hole collisions in the near universe within one year of operation. The aLIGO team has now called a press conference in Washington for Thursday, 11 February, to give an update on their search.

Astronomers at the Armagh Observatory will be available after the live press conference to give immediate reaction.

Armagh astronomers are involved in the search for gravitational waves through the predicted counterparts of these stellar collisions in visible light. Simon Jeffery and Shenghua Yu make theoretical predictions about the numbers and types of double stars in the Galaxy which can emit gravitational waves. Gavin Ramsay is involved in an observational survey to identify potential gravitational-wave emitters, and Jorick Vink calculates how massive stars evolve to become neutron stars and possible black holes, and hence what detected gravitational-wave events may be able to tell us about stellar evolution.

Professor Simon Jeffery said: “If the 100-year long search for gravitational waves is now over, the impact on physics will be as big as general relativity itself. The new science of gravitational-wave astronomy will allow us to discover and explore new and unimaginably energetic events in our Galaxy and farther afield.”

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION AND DETAILS OF THE ARMAGH OBSERVATORY BRIEFING ON THURSDAY 11 FEBRUARY 2016 PLEASE CONTACT:

Simon Jeffery (csj@arm.ac.uk, 028 3752 2928),

Gavin Ramsay (gar@arm.ac.uk, 028 3752 2928) or

Jorick Vink (jsv@arm.ac.uk, 028 3752 3689)


Additional Information.


The Press conference announcement:

http://www.ligo.org/news/media-advisory.php


LIGO: The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory

https://www.ligo.caltech.edu

Last Revised: 2016 February 10th