Physics Colloquium: Gravitational Wave Astronomy
In Sept 2015 the Advanced LIGO detectors detected gravitational waves for the first time, experimentally validating the last major prediction of General Relativity. This event marks the opening of an entire new spectrum, akin to the electromagnetic spectrum, with which to study the universe. In the two years since, the global gravitational wave detector network has been observing some of the most violent events ever seen in astronomy: the collision of black holes. These events record the conversion of entire solar masses worth of energy into distortions of spacetime, which by the time they reach us produce tidal strains of 10-21 in the arms of the detectors.
How do we detect these tiny signals? What can they teach us about physics and astrophysics? Where did these black holes come from? And what else might we see through this new window on the universe?