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Gravitational Waves, Merging Black Holes and Merging Binary Neutron Stars

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The University Club of Western Australia, UWA

Theatre Auditorium

35 Stirling Hwy

Crawley, WA 6009

Australia

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GRAVITATIONAL WAVES, MERGING BLACK HOLES AND MERGING BINARY NEUTRON STARS

A public lecture by Professor George Smoot, Nobel Laureate and Professor of Physics, University of California, Berkeley and Visiting UWA Institute of Advanced Studies Fellow.

The detection of gravitational waves from the mergers of binary black holes by the Advanced LIGO detectors has provided a first glimpse on the most energetic phenomena in the Universe. On 14 September, 2015 the advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (aLIGO) at the very beginning of its operation observed the merger of a binary black hole pair of masses 36 and 29 times that of the Sun. This event initiated the era of observational gravitational wave astronomy and allowed probing strong field General Relativity theory, the population of stellar remnants including black holes as well as finally confirming a 100-year-old prediction of the existence of gravitational waves by Einstein.

Over the last two years two more events and one candidate events of binary black hole mergers have been observed enriching our knowledge of these phenomena greatly and promising even more as aLIGO and new detector added and upgraded. These discoveries led to the 2017 Nobel Prize. Recently on August 17, LIGO and Virgo made the first detection of a binary neutron star merger, GW170817. Two seconds later, an associated gamma-ray burst (GRB) was detected by Fermi and INTEGRAL satellites, GRB 170817A. Soon after sunset in Chile, the 1-m Swope telescope at Las Campanas Observatory discovered the optical counterpart, Swope Supernova Survey 2017a (SSS17a). Observations taken over the next several weeks extended the range of frequencies observed and 30 different telescopes and detectors following the relic radiation. With the electromagnetic data, we are able to say that GW170817 came from the merger of a binary neutron star system. These data show that a significant amount of r-process material was generated and ejected in the merger — a so-called ‘kilonova’ — providing enough material to solve the question of where the majority of r-process (heavier) elements are created. Examining the host galaxy, we find that the progenitor system was likely several Giga-years old.

This data-rich event is just the beginning. GW170817 and SSS17a herald the beginning of a new era of astronomy. In this talk, Professor Smoot will tell the tale of these discoveries and their implications.

George Fitzgerald Smoot III is an American astrophysicist, cosmologist and Nobel laureate. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006 for his work on the Cosmic Background Explorer with John C. Mather that led to the "discovery of the black body form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation".

This work helped further the Big Bang theory of the universe using the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite. According to the Nobel Prize committee, "the COBE project can also be regarded as the starting point for cosmology as a precision science."

Currently Smoot is a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, since 2010, a professor of physics at the Paris Diderot University, France and since 2016 the Helmut and Anna Pao Sohmen Professor at Large at the IAS Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. In 2003, he was awarded the Einstein Medal and the Oersted Medal in 2009.

Professor Smoot is a 2017 UWA Institute of Advanced Studies Visiting Fellow.

SPACE RESEARCH AND THE FALCON TELESCOPE NETWORK

A public talk by Francis Chun, professor, Department of Physics, United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) and Director, Center for Space Situational Awareness Research.

The US Airforce Academy in collaboration with UWA, CEOWA, the Gravity Discovery Centre and Pindan Constructions has just installed a key element of the worldwide Falcon Telescope Network (FTN). The FTN is designed for understanding the Earth’s congested, contested, and competitive space environment as more and more nations and commercial companies strive to launch and operate their own satellites. This talk will provide an overview of the Falcon Telescope Network, and discuss research and education opportunities that this network brings to WA.

Francis Chun is a professor in the Department of Physics at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) and Director of the Center for Space Situational Awareness Research. In his 34-year Air Force career, as a military officer and government civilian, Professor Chun worked on a variety of space-related programs. In his current position, he leads a team of faculty and cadets conducting satellite characterization research using small telescopes and developing USAFA’s world-wide Falcon Telescope Network.

Professor Smoot and Professor Chun are participating in the Australasian Conference of General Relativity and Gravitation being held at The University of Western Australia’s Gingin Gravity Precinct in November 2017.

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Date and Time

Location

The University Club of Western Australia, UWA

Theatre Auditorium

35 Stirling Hwy

Crawley, WA 6009

Australia

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