Syracuse University Gravitational Wave Group
Gravitational Waves are one of the most remarkable predictions of Einstein's theory of general relativity. These waves are ripples in the curvature of spacetime which carry information about the changing gravitational fields of distant sources. Although you can generate gravitational waves just by shaking your fist, to generate gravitational waves strong enough to be detectable with current technology needs extremely dense, massive objects, such as black holes and neutron stars, and moving at very high speeds.
By measuring gravitational waves, we hope to learn about systems that cannot be observed with existing means, such as optical, radio, infrared, etc. Gravitational waves can penetrate regions these electromagnetic waves cannot, allowing us to directly observe black holes and other massive objects in the distant Universe. Since the gravitational waves we will observe are generated by very strong gravitational fields, precision measurements of these waves will also allow us to perform unprecedented tests of the general theory of relativity.
At Left, above, Artist's conception of the gravitational waves produced by two neutron stars orbiting each other.
A world-wide effort to detect gravitational waves is now underway, with detectors in the United States, Germany, Italy and Japan. The U.S. Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) has recently completed the remarkable task of taking one year of data coincident between its three detectors at design sensitivity. This data may contain the first gravitational waves to be seen. Upgrades to the LIGO and Virgo detectors are underway to increase their sensitivity. A new window has been opened on the universe and the detection of gravitational radiation is one of the most eagerly anticipated events of twenty-first century physics.
Through its membership of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, the Syracuse Gravitational Wave Group is contributing to the search for gravitational waves in LIGO and Virgo data and is helping to develop techniques which will be used to improve the advanced generation of detectors.
To learn more about LIGO and gravitational-wave detection you can browse the Science of LIGO pages. If you are in Livingston, Louisiana, you can visit the LIGO Science Education Center for a hands-on learning experience.
At left and above, A view along the one of the arms of the LIGO Livingston Observatory. The arm is 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) long. The other arm extend 4 kilometers to the right of the picture.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. PHY-0600259, PHY-0847611 and PHY-0854812, PHY-1068809, PHY-1040231, PHY-1104371, PHY-1205835, PHY-1333142, PHY-1352511, PHY-1341006, PHY-1443047, and PHY-1404395. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.