Gravity project pulls in physicists around globe

Gravity Discovery Centre chairman Fred Deshon, Gravitational Wave Observatory development committee chairman Jens Balkau and Australian Consortium for Gravitational Astronomy chairman Peter Veitch launched the project that expands Australian participation in US and European projects hunting for gravitational waves.

AIGRC director and UWA Winthrop professor David Blair said 1000 physicists internationally were involved in the search, which would commission three big supersensitive detectors in the US and Europe in coming years.

‘The expected step in sensitivity will extend their reach 10-fold and increase the number of expected signals 1000-fold,’ he said.

Professor Veitch said the advanced detectors change the whole game. ‘For the first time we have firm predictions: both the strength and the number of signals,’ he said.

‘No longer are we hoping for rare and unknown events.

‘We will be monitoring a significant volume of the universe and for the first time we can be confident that we will ‘listen’ to the coalescence of binary neutron star systems and the formation of black holes.

‘Once these detectors reach full sensitivity we should hear signals almost once a week.’

The Australian project has grown out of a partnership that began more than 10 years ago, with two components involving experiments at the AIGRC, and signal detection using the iVEC supercomputer at the Pawsey Centre in WA.

Data from the detectors will be used in conjunction with optical telescopes, including Gingin’s Zadko telescope, that will search the sky for visible signs of the catastrophic events signalled by the gravitational waves.