Dr. Duncan Brown
"Gravitational-wave Astronomy with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory"
Almost all of our knowledge of astronomy and astrophysics comes from observing the Universe with electromagnetic waves. 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 objects. Gravitational-waves are analogous to electromagnetic waves, but because the coupling between gravity and matter is so much weaker than the coupling between light and matter, it is very difficult to generate detectable gravitational waves. To generate waves strong enough to be detectable with current technology needs extremely dense, massive objects, such as black holes and neutron stars, moving at speeds close to the speed of light. The first detection of gravitational-wave observations will open a new window on the Universe and establish the field of gravitational-wave astronomy.
The U.S. Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) and its French-Italian counterpart Virgo are presently searching for gravitational waves. I will review the status of the search for waves emitted during the final moments of binary systems containing black holes and neutron stars. I will describe how information from numerical modeling of binary black holes is being used to improve current and future searches and discuss how observations of these systems will bring us new knowledge of both fundamental physics and astrophysics.