Detecting Gravitational Waves
Patrick Brady, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
When Galileo first turned his telescope toward the cosmos, he immediately discovered that there are mountains on the Earth's moon, that Jupiter has moons orbiting it, that Venus must be orbiting around the sun. In the twentieth century, radio telescopes revealed aspects of the universe which had been invisible before. Scientists are now poised to probe general relativity, black holes and the early universe using gravitational waves as an astronomical tool. Gravitational waves and black holes are counted among the most dramatic predictions of general relativity, Einstein's theory of gravity. The direct observation of gravitational waves is the immediate goal for kilometer-scale interferometers taking data at various sites around the world. In this session, we will review the basic properties of gravitational waves and briefly describe the laser interferometers which are being used as gravitational-wave detectors. We will discuss the anticipated sources of gravitational waves: supernovae explosions, the merger of black holes and neutron stars, rapidly spinning neutron stars, and even the big bang itself. Over the next decade, improvements in the instruments should bring the worldwide network of gravitational-wave detectors into an era of routine
astronomical observations finally realizing the promise for exciting discoveries at this frontier of astronomy and physics.