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 Mark Hannam

Mark Hannam

Media commentator


I study black holes and gravitational waves, and I work on producing theoretical models of gravitational waves from collisions of black holes.

I was very happy when the first ever gravitational waves that were directly measured by LIGO turned out to be from black holes colliding, and the models that I've worked on (with people in Cardiff and around the world) were used to interpret the results.


I studied at Waikato and Canterbury Universities in New Zealand, and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in the USA. During my PhD I numerically solved the equations necessary to provide the initial conditions for simulations of collisions of black holes.

After I completed my PhD in 2003, I embarked on a research world tour, stopping at the University of Texas at Brownsville; the Friedrich-Schiller-University in Jena, Germany; University College Cork, Ireland; and the University of Vienna, Austria. In 2010 I came to Cardiff as an STFC Advanced Fellow, and became a professor in 2015. In 2015 I was also awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant to study precessing binary black holes.

Professional memberships

  • Institute of Physics


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I solve Einstein's equations of general relativity on a computer, to calculate what happens when black holes collide. The main application currently is to use those results to produce theoretical models of the GW signals from black-hole collisions, and in turn to use those to find such signals in detector data, and to measure the properties of the source.

Numerical Relativity and Gravitational-Wave Astronomy

Numerical Relativity involves solving Einstein's equations of general relativity on a computer, and one of the most exciting current applications is to model two black holes that orbit each other, inspiral together, and merge to form a single black hole.

The reason this is so topical is that these simulations are the only way to predict the gravitational-wave signal from black-hole mergers, which provided the first direct gravitational-wave observations by LIGO in 2015 -- and indeed, all of the detections so far.

Our gravitational-wave signal models were used to decipher the properties of those first direct gravitational-wave detections. As the detectors become more sensitive, and we are able to extract more detailed information from gravitational-wave signals, we need to move beyond the simple approximate models that we have developed so far, and construct precision models that capture all of the physics of black-hole-binary systems.


I currently supervise:

  • Gernot Heissel (2013-)
  • Chinmay Kalaghatgi (2015-)
  • Ed Fauchon-Jones (2015-)
  • Eleanor Hamilton (2016-)
  • Dave Yeeles (2017-).

Past projects

My previous students Patricia Schmidt (2010-14) and Sebastian Khan (2012-16) went on to postdoc positions at Caltech and Radboud University, and the Albert-Einstein-Institute, Hannover.