The first direct detections of gravitational waves, announced in 2016 by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration, open the vast new frontier of gravitational-wave astronomy. These first detections of merging black holes confirm that Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity gives a good description of the most extreme spacetimes ever encountered. This provides a comfortable base for future detections of matter in these extreme spacetime conditions. Different methods have been optimized to search for different classes of future events. Extracting the best science from these future observations will require building out the international network of gravitational-wave detectors to optimize localization of the sources and to recover full polarization information from events. From the first observations of merging black holes, we extrapolate that such mergers occur hourly somewhere in the observable universe. This motivates continuation of the evolution of detectors with greater sensitivity, eventually probing mergers of black holes formed by the first generations of stars, deeply probing the nature of extreme spacetime and the nature of matter at extreme density.
About the speakers
Dr. Fred Raab is the Associate Director for Operations of the LIGO Laboratory, which is operated for the U.S.National Science Foundation by Caltech and MIT. He earned his Ph.D. in Physics in 1980 at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He worked as a Research Scientist at the University of Washington until 1988.He moved to the California Institute of Technology as Assistant Professor of Physics, where he co-authored the LIGO construction proposal. He was appointed Head of LIGO Hanford Observatory in 1995 and moved with his family to Richland, Washington to hire the staff, outfit the new observatory and begin operations. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the Optical Society of America and he regularly serves as an expert panelist reviewing large national programs in the physical and environmental sciences, engineering and science education.