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Around the world in 80 telescopes

03 April 2009

Around the World in 80 telescopes logo

Aspiring black-hole spotters will get a rare chance to see some of the most sophisticated gravitational wave detectors at work by logging on to a special 24-hour webcast (from April 3rd).

Around the World in 80 Telescopes includes a live fed feed from the GEO 600, the Hanover-based British-German gravitational wave detector project co-founded by the School of Physics and Astronomy’s Gravitational Physics Group.

The live 24-hour webcast (April 3-4) has been organised by the European Southern Observatory, the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere and is part of the 100 hours of Astronomy celebrations to mark the International Year of Astronomy 2009. The webcast will visit some of the most advanced astronomical observatories around the globe - including the worldwide network of gravitational wave observatories (GEO600, LIGO, TAMA and Virgo) and the Australian prototype gravitational wave detector (AIGO).

Observing the universe with gravitational waves is a new kind of astronomy. With giant laser interferometers, researchers monitor the universe in the unique spectrum of gravitational waves - for the first time, they are "listening" to the universe and will discover unknown and distant regions. By observing gravitational waves – tiny ripples in space-time – researchers will gain unique insights into black holes, neutron stars and the Big Bang.

Web-watchers will be able to find out what's happening at international research observatories. During the webcast on-site researchers at each gravitational wave observatory will explain how they are listening to the universe and introduce the very sophisticated technology that is needed to measure tiny gravitational wave signals: vacuum tubes, high powered lasers, mirror suspensions, absorption free optics, laser stabilization and noise reduction.

The Gravitational Physics Group is one of the largest research groups in the School. The Group is also a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, involved in the space-based LISA and the design study of the 3rd generation Einstein gravitational-wave Telescope.

Stations of the tour through gravitational wave observatories are:

• GEO600 – the British-German project near Hanover, Germany

• Virgo - the Dutch-French-Italian Virgo project near Pisa, Italy

• LIGO - the US project in Hanford, Washington and Livingston, Louisiana

• AIGO – the Australian project in Gingin

• TAMA – the Japanese project in Tokyo

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