Catching gravitational waves: a new discovery and a new astronomy

7.00pm to 8.30pm, Thursday 19 May

The Theatre

This event has already taken place

  • Numerical simulation of two merging black holes
    performed by the Albert Einstein Institute in
    Germany showing gravitational waves.

    Credit: By Werner Benger.


Standard £14

Concession £10

Discounts for Ri Members

Event description

A century ago, Albert Einstein realised that in his new model for space and time in our Universe (his 'General Theory of Relativity'), space could be  stretching and squashing in response to the motion of objects. These ripples in space-time - 'Gravitational waves' - are produced by some of the most energetic and dramatic phenomena in our universe, including black holes, neutron stars and supernovae.

Close to 100 years after the prediction of the existence of gravitational waves, the advanced detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) recently detected such signals for the first time, starting a new era in astronomy. Sheila Rowan will explain the nature of gravitational waves, describe what sources out in the Universe can produce them, explain how they are detected and what the future of this new era in astronomy might look like.


Sheila Rowan is a professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at University of Glasgow. Her research focusses on gravitational wave detection on the ground and in space. Her programme currently includes studies of ultra sensitive mechanical systems; investigation of materials of ultra-low mechanical loss and construction of mechanically-stable optical systems for interferometric applications.


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