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World’s biggest meeting on Gravitational Waves comes to Cardiff

07 July 2011

Einstein’s theory of gravity predicts that gravitational waves – minute ripples in the fabric of spacetime – should emanate from catastrophic cosmic events such as merging black holes, collapsing stars and supernovae.

The first generation of interferometric detectors, GEO600, LIGO, Virgo and TAMA, have successfully demonstrated the proof-of-principle and constrained gravitational waves from several sources.

The next generation of detectors GEO-HF, Advanced LIGO, LCGT and Advanced Virgo, currently under construction, should make the first direct detection of gravitational waves – for example, from a pair of orbiting black holes or neutron stars spiralling into each other – heralding the new field of Gravitational Astronomy.

Dr Patrick Sutton, chair of the conference organising committee from Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said, "We are delighted to be hosting this event, which is attracting some of the top physicists and astronomers in the world to Cardiff. It is a testimony to the world-leading role Cardiff University plays in this exciting new area."

The biennial Amaldi meetings, sponsored by the Gravitational Wave International Committee (GWIC, a sub-committee of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics), cover all aspects of gravitational-wave science: current and future detectors, data analysis, gravitational-wave sources, and the physics, astrophysics and cosmology one hopes to learn from gravitational astronomy.

Professor James Hough, the chair of GWIC, said, "Cardiff is a very appropriate location for these meetings as so much of the theoretical research on sources and potential for gravitational wave astronomy has been carried out here by Sathyaprakash, Bernard Schutz and their colleagues."

The NRDA meetings bring together numerical relativists who simulate sources of gravitational radiation, and data analysts who search for these signals in gravitational wave detector data. This is the fourth NRDA meeting; the previous meetings were held in Waterloo (2010), Potsdam (2009), and Syracuse (2008).

Dr Mark Hannam from Cardiff School of Physics and Astronomy’s Gravitational Physics Group (and a founding member of the NRDA collaboration) said, "Numerical relativity is the only way to solve Einstein's equations to describe the collisions of black holes or neutron stars. We need to do this for thousands of different cases before the advanced detectors come online, and we have only a few years left. So these meetings are our chance to work out with the data analysts how to do it."

Dr Stephen Fairhurst, Royal Society University Fellow at Cardiff School of Physics and Astronomy and another founding member of the NRDA collaboration, said: "Black hole mergers are one of the most energetic processes in the universe, and one of the most promising sources of gravitational waves. Knowledge of the expected gravitational wave signal will greatly enhance our ability to find these systems."

A number of public talks are also being held as part of the conference. Details below.



Further information is available by contacting:

Professor B.S. Sathyaprakash
Cardiff University
School of Physics & Astronomy

Nicola Hunt
Cardiff University
School of Physics and Astronomy
Tel: 029 2087 6457

Public/Outreach talks:
On the occasion of the Amaldi and NRDA meetings there will be three public talks involving leading Cardiff University academics.

On Monday July 11, Professor Harry Collins, Cardiff University, will speak on:
What does a sociologist see when he looks at science

On Tuesday July 12, there will be an outreach talk on Professor Matt Griffin, Cardiff University, will speak on:
The Herschel and Planck missions: Exploring the History of the Universe

On Wednesday July 13, there will be an outreach talk by Professor Bernard Schutz, Cardiff University and Director, Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, on:
Gravitational Waves: Listening to the True Music of the Spheres!

Cardiff School of Physics and Astronomy
Cardiff has a large and successful School of Physics and Astronomy, attracting some 300 undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Physics research is focused in two areas: condensed matter physics and optoelectronics. Researchers are using theoretical and practical techniques to answer fundamental questions about the electrical, magnetic and optical properties of new semiconducting materials and investigating the design and fabrication of new optoelectronic devices. The School has extensive facilities for building and investigating devices made from these new materials.

The most spectacular results come from ultra-thin sandwich structures. The novel properties of these devices are being exploited in the design of lasers and detectors. For researchers and students of astronomy, the School offers modern astronomical laboratories with optical, radio and solar telescopes. The University’s Astrophysics Research Group and the Astronomy Instrumentation Research Group are two of the most vigorous in the UK. Members of the groups regularly use the three main British observatories in Hawaii, the Canary Islands and Australia, and they also use the Hubble Space Telescope and other space observatories.

The Gravitational Physics Group is one of the largest research groups in the School. The Group co-founded the British-German GEO 600, is a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, involved in the space-based LISA and the design study of the 3rd generation Einstein Telescope.
The Group's search for gravitational waves is focused on transients such as supernovae and binary neutron stars and black holes; theoretical research is focused on quantum processes in the early Universe, cosmic microwave and gravitational wave backgrounds, the formation, evolution and nature of large-scale structure in the Universe, alternative formulations of general relativity and modeling binary black holes.

Cardiff University
Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Professor Sir Martin Evans.

Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning.