"Probing the Gravitational Universe with Gravitational Waves"
Exploring the universe by means of gravitational waves
October 30, 2008
An English-language lecture by Prof. Luc Blanchet on 6 November 2008 at 5:30 pm in the new Physics Building of the University of Potsdam/Golm Campus, Room 0.104 in Haus 28 Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 24/25, 14476 Potsdam.
This was a point Einstein was absolutely certain about: within the framework of the general theory of relativity, he predicted gravitational waves as minute distortions in the structure of space-time – space-time curvatures moving at the speed of light that still carry completely unknown information about the universe and its origin. For this reason, scientists worldwide are working on the problem of measuring gravitational waves and thereby opening a new window onto the universe. We are at the threshold of the beginning of a completely new type of astronomy.
Professor Luc Blanchet will provide an overview of the world of gravitational wave research. He himself is a researcher in the Department of Gravitation and Cosmology (GReCO) at the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, and an award winner of the French Academy of Sciences.
Currently, the earth-based detectors GEO600, LIGO and Virgo are seeking to measure gravitational waves. Moreover, in a few years the LISA Space Observatory will also start its work and be able to capture numerous sources of gravitational waves that are not accessible from Earth. The existence of gravitational waves has already been indirectly confirmed through astronomical observations of the binary pulsar system PSR1913 + 16.
Gravitational waves are so interesting because one can learn a lot of new things about the universe from them. They arise as a result of extreme astronomical events, such as the merging of black holes or the collision of neutron stars.
In order for it to even be possible to measure the waves, scientists in the area of theoretical physics and mathematics are working hard to calculate and characterize the shape of the waves and the signals expected therefrom. This is the only way that a measured gravitational wave signal could actually be recognized as such. New methods in the general and the numerical theory of relativity are providing excellent predictions about the form the expected signals could take. Theoretical and experimental gravitational physicists are working hand in hand to explore the universe and Einstein’s prediction – and, last but not least, to establish a completely new branch of astronomy.
The lecture is taking place at the invitation of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI) on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Living Reviews in Relativity.