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Probing physics and astrophysics with gravitational wave observations

October 18, 2016 - 4:00pm
Peter Shawhan

The direct detection of gravitational waves by LIGO in 2015 was an amazing milestone.  Our exquisitely constructed detectors have finally reached the sensitivity at which these exceedingly weak signals can be recorded and identified.  LIGO detected two clear events, each from the merger of a pair of rather heavy black holes.  Those events, plus a third candidate, are already informing us about stellar evolution and allowing us to test the general theory of relativity in detail.  I will talk about the operational status of LIGO and Virgo and the prospects for capturing more events in the near future.  Besides further binary black hole events, we are also eager to detect binaries containing neutron stars, and potentially other signals.  I will outline the possibilities for detecting gamma-ray bursts and/or other electromagnetic signals associated with gravitational-wave events (with a possible hint already from the Fermi spacecraft).

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