Gravitational Wave Astronomy: A New Window onto the Universe

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy


The past three years has been a period of great progress in gravitational waves. The LIGO-GEO network of interferometers, took science quality data over several science runs. The most recent data taking, the fifth science run began in November 2005 and will last until the end of 2007. At the start of this run the LIGO instruments all reached their design sensitivity goal. Currently, the LIGO network is capable of detecting the coalescence of binary neutron stars and binary black holes up to distances of 25 and 300 Mpc, respectively. With an expected rate of up to one BBH coalescence per year, there is a fighting chance that the first detections will take place during the current run. Recently, the LIGO, GEO600 and Virgo have reached an agreement to analyse their data jointly. This has paved the way for a global network of detectors that will observe the gravitational sky continuously over the next decade. A key theme of our research over the next 5 years is to add Virgo data to our analyses pipelines, thereby increasing both the detection efficiency and science throughput. The proposed research is focussed on maximising the discovery potential of GEO600, LIGO (and their upgrades to enhanced and advanced configuations) and Virgo, in some of which PPARC has made substantial investment for over a decade. Specifically, our goal is to search for binary neutron stars and binary black holes, supernovae, progenitors of gamma-ray bursts and other transients - sources that are expected to be the most promising for a first direct detection of gravitational waves. Our research programme will address two of the key science quesitions in the PPARC roadmap: (1) What is the Universe made of and how does it evolve? and (2) What are the laws of physics in extreme conditions?


10 25 50
Description Development of data analysis pipeline for analysing GEO600 and LIGO data and theoretical research on modelling gravitational wave sources.
Exploitation Route Generic pattern recognition algorithms have applications in other fields of physics, biology and medicine.
Sectors Education

Description Royal Society University Research Fellowship
Amount £803,198 (GBP)
Funding ID 516002.K5869/R OG 
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2007 
End 09/2014
Description STFC Advanced Fellowship
Amount £548,111 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/H008438/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2010 
End 09/2015
Description GEO600 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Department Physics and Astronomy Department
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Detector characterisation and data analysis; strategic plans, scientific motivation for improving detector sensitivity.
Collaborator Contribution Building the detector, maintaining the detector, detector characterisation and data analysis.
Impact A working gravitational wave detector, development of advanced technology for advanced and third generation detectors.
Description LIGO Scientific Collaboration 
Organisation LIGO
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Search algorithms and software, data analysis and astrophysical interpretation, scientific motivation for improvement in detector sensitivity
Collaborator Contribution Building and maintaining the LIGO detectors
Impact Publications, conference plenaries, conference contributions
Description Black Hole Hunter 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This is an on-line game that is on display at every major/minor outreach activity undertaken by members of the 1000-strong LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

It has been translated to German, French and Spain and attracts of 1000's of unique hits every year.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008
Description Can you hear black holes 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact AThis was a Royal Society Summer exhibition. An estimated 4000 people passed through our stand in 3 days.

Exhibits were developed and in particular the online black hole hunger game was developed for the exhibition.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008
Description Gravity Beyond the Apple 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A hands-on school show describing black holes and gravitational waves was developed and presented to 15 schools in the South Wales area.

A hands-on school show; video interviews of some of the scientists that were used in the show.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2007,2008