The Dawn of Gravitational Wave Astronomy

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

Abstract

On 14th September 2015 the LIGO experiment made the first ever direct detection of gravitational waves, the last unverified prediction of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. This marked the dawn of the era of gravitational wave astronomy, and over the coming months and years, there will be many more similar events. The source of the gravitational waves in this case was a pair of black holes, each around thirty times the mass of our Sun, spiralling in and merging around one billion light years away. The technical achievements of the detection are phenomenal, with the two LIGO detectors able to measure length changes of around a thousandth the size of a proton - one part in a billion billion.

These extreme events and complex concepts are of great interest to the general public, and this project will exploit the many outreach and education opportunities afforded by the dawn of the era of gravitational wave astronomy. There is significant involvement in the LIGO experiment in the UK, funded by STFC, and UK scientists are heavily involved in almost all aspects of the experiment, from technology used in the detectors, to searching for signals in the data, and computer models of the sources of gravitational waves. As the LIGO detectors are upgraded over coming years, and as additional detectors become operational around the world, more detections of gravitational waves are sure to be made.

While general relativity is a complex theory, and not on the school curriculum, concepts such as gravitational waves and black holes, and the science technology behind the LIGO detectors, provide excellent contexts for use with existing areas of the curriculum, such as the behaviour or waves, interference, lifecycle of stars and circular orbits, as well as direct inclusion in future UK science curricula.

This fellowship will develop educational resources to aid teachers in covering LIGO and gravitational waves in lessons. By working with existing teacher networks, it will deliver these resources, and associated educational material, to teachers across the UK, and provide Student Masterclasses and workshops. It will produce a online app to illustrate the workings of a Gravitational Wave observatory, and an interactive, mechanical "Lego LIGO" demonstration for use in workshops and public exhibitions. The current momentum surrounding LIGO and gravitational waves will be maintained in the media.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Infinite LIGO Dreams (Penelope Rose Cowley) 
Description Artwork by local artist Penelope Rose Cowley, celebrating the detection of Gravitational Waves, on display in the School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Interest and discussion from many visitors to the School of Physics and Astronomy 
URL http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/physicsoutreach/2016/11/25/new-artwork-inspired-gravitational-wave-discov...
 
Description LIGO/Virgo EPO group 
Organisation LIGO
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Various activities related to LIGO-Virgo engagement & public outreach deliverables. Particularly interactive websites, and contributions to broader activities.
Collaborator Contribution Various activities related to LIGO-Virgo engagement & public outreach deliverables. Particularly interactive websites, and contributions to broader activities.
Impact Interactive websites - catalog.cardiffgravity.org ; http://data.cardiffgravity.org/waveview
Start Year 2016
 
Description LIGO/Virgo EPO group 
Organisation Virgo Ego Scientific Forum
Country Global 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Various activities related to LIGO-Virgo engagement & public outreach deliverables. Particularly interactive websites, and contributions to broader activities.
Collaborator Contribution Various activities related to LIGO-Virgo engagement & public outreach deliverables. Particularly interactive websites, and contributions to broader activities.
Impact Interactive websites - catalog.cardiffgravity.org ; http://data.cardiffgravity.org/waveview
Start Year 2016
 
Description National Space Academy - Gravitational Waves Workshops 
Organisation National Space Centre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution As part of the public engagement fellowship I began the development of an A-level workshop, and arranged a trial delivery of the workshop.
Collaborator Contribution The National Space Academy provided three person-days of staff and lead educator time for a planning workshop, as well as a further day of lead educator time for a trial delivery of the workshop.
Impact An A-level workshop about Gravitational Waves
Start Year 2016
 
Title Black Hole Bubble Plot 
Description To visualise the black hole binaries discovered by LIGO, I created an online web-tool that displays a "Bubble Plot" of all known black holes, including those detected by LIGO and those inferred from x-ray binary measurements. The web-tool will be updated as more gravitational wave detections are published. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact There has been significant interest from members of the LIGO community, which has increased its reach and the page has been translated from English into Oriya (Odia), French, Hungarian and Chinese (Hong Kong). 
URL http://chrisnorth.github.io/plotgw/bhbubble
 
Title GW Catalogue Plotter 
Description I developed and published a web-tool to visualise the gravitational wave data produced by LIGO. It allows the user to explore the detections made to date, and provides links to the data on the LIGO Online Science Centre (LOSC). The web-tool is open source and will be updated as more results are published. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Other members of the LIGO-Virgo team have expressed great interest in the web-tool, and there is an intention to include it in a future version of GWOSC. 
URL http://catalog.cardiffgravity.org
 
Title LEGO-LIGO prototype 
Description A prototype of the "LEGO LIGO" demonstration model, as produced by Cardiff University MSc Physics students (J. Zamorano-Osorio, V. Silva Neyra). The prototype includes two LEGO Mindstorms to drive "mirrors" and the basic components of a LIGO model constructed from LEGO. A student report on the prototype development is included as the link below. 
Type Of Technology Physical Model/Kit 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact The development of the prototype increased the engagement and understanding of the students involved, requiring them to work with the Gravitational Physics group and learn about the operation of LIGO. Since it is a prototype the model hasn't been tested with real audiences yet. 
URL https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B7ZDkYLdRh3AUFlEaHFDR1N0Vk0?usp=sharing
 
Title LEGO-LIGO software prototype 
Description A prototype of software required to drive the "LEGO LIGO" demonstration model, as produced by Cardiff University MSc Physics students (J. Zamorano-Osorio, V. Silva Neyra). The software is currently written in LabView, and will run on a RaspberryPi or similar in the final version. It will also be Open Source when it is complete. The software takes an input from a simulated gravitational wave signal and drives LEGO Mindstorms in such a way to move the mirrors in the appropriate way. A student report on the prototype development is included as the link below. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact The development of the prototype increased the engagement and understanding of the students involved, requiring them to work with the Gravitational Physics group and learn about the operation of LIGO. Since it is a prototype the model hasn't been tested with real audiences yet. 
URL https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B7ZDkYLdRh3AUFlEaHFDR1N0Vk0?usp=sharing
 
Title LegoLIGO final version 
Description A lego-based model of the LIGO detectors 
Type Of Technology Physical Model/Kit 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact The model is used in schools workshops for A-level students, and listed as the most interesting part of the workshop by some students. It was also used at public exhibitions and open days, where the visitors reported that it helped with their understanding of how the LIGO detectors worked. 
 
Title Waveform viewer 
Description A tool to display and filter the waveforms of the LIGO-Virgo detections 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2019 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact A number of members of the collaboration have reported using it for presentations. 
URL http://cardiffgravity.org/waveview
 
Description 390th Heraeus Seminar - General Relativity in Education 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A presentation of interim evaluation results to general relativists and educators
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://workshops.cardiffgravity.org
 
Description Abergavenny Astronomical Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A talk to Abergavenny Astronomical Society about the detection of gravitational waves
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Astrocamp IX - Gravitational Waves 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A talk given to a group of amateur astronomers as part of the AstroCamp "starcamp" in South Wales. The audience was made primarily of amateur astronomers and their families. There were lots of questions from this interested audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description BBC Radio Wales: interview about GW170104 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview about announcement of detection of GW170104
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Black Hole Bubble Plot 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact To visualise the black hole binaries discovered by LIGO, I created an online web-tool that displays a "Bubble Plot" of all known black holes, including those detected by LIGO and those inferred from x-ray binary measurements. The web-tool will be updated as more gravitational wave detections are published.

There has been significant interest from members of the LIGO community, and the page has been translated from English into Oriya (Odia), French, Hungarian and Chinese (Hong Kong).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL http://chrisnorth.github.io/plotgw/bhbubble
 
Description Cardiff Physics A/S Summer Science Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A 3-day workshop about physics, which included a Gravitational Waves workshop, and a talk about their detection
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/physicsoutreach/2017/05/12/cardiff-physics-as-level-summer-programme/
 
Description Cardiff Science Festival - Museum After Dark 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A very popular event with many young people in attendance - over 500 people over the course of 3 hours. Showcased LEGO LIGO as well as a laser interferometer and a number of multiwavelength astronomy activities
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://museum.wales/cardiff/whatson/11002/After-Dark/
 
Description Careers Day Keynote, National Space Centre (Leicester) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This was a 30minute Keynote lecture on the "Discovery of Gravitational Waves", given as part of a Careers Day at the National Space Centre (Leicester). Around 150-200 Sixth Form students were in attendance. The aim was to increase knowledge of the students about gravitational waves and their detection, and provide a bit of context for their career choices. Some teachers requested more information and lesson plans etc.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Catalyst magazine article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Magazine editors were very happy with the article.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.stem.org.uk/resources/elibrary/resource/417477/black-holes
 
Description Daresbury Talking Science 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An evening talk at the STFC Daresbury Talking Science event, about the detection of gravitational waves
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description EWASS - Outreach & Engagement 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation about workshop and GW outreach at EWASS 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description GW Catalogue Plotter 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I developed and published a web-tool to visualise the gravitational wave data produced by LIGO. It allows the user to explore the detections made to date, and provides links to the data on the LIGO Online Science Centre (LOSC). The web-tool is open source and will be updated as more results are published.

Other members of the LIGO team have expressed great interest in the web-tool, and there is an intention to include it in a future version of LOSC.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017,2018,2019
URL http://catalog.cardiffgravity.org
 
Description Grav Waves workshop (Ashby School 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Gravitational Waves workshop at Ashby School (Leicestershire). Approx 50 sixth form students across 2x2-hour workshops
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Gravitational Waves A-level Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A workshop exploring the science and technology of gravitational waves, linked to the A-level (and Advanced Higher) Physics curriculum. It has been delivered nearly 20 times, reaching over 300 students. Evaluations indicate that students gain significant increase in understanding of gravitational waves (moving from a mean of 3-4 out of 10 to 6-7 out of 10), and also in the relevance of them to their studies at school. Students felt very involved in the workshop and that the level was about right.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL http://workshops.cardiffgravity.org
 
Description Gravitational Waves A-level Workshop, Ashby School (Leicestershire) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A trial delivery of an A-level workshop to a class of 32 students (a mixture of year 12 and year 13), supported by a National Space Academy Lead Educator. There were many questions from the students, who reported the workshop to be very enjoyable in their feedback. The feedback results have also led on to improvements and adjustments in the workshop design and delivery.

A comparison of pre- and post-workshop evaluations showed that the proportion of students who considered what they learned at A_level to be fairly relevant or very relevant to gravitational waves and their detection increased from 45% before to 77% afterwards.

The proportion of participants who ranked their understanding of gravitational waves at 7 or higher on a scale of 1-10 increased from 7% before to 50% afterwards. The proportion scoring 5 or more increased from 30% before to 87% afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B7ZDkYLdRh3AeFhrcm9xb3FXTnM?usp=sharing
 
Description Gravitational Waves Planning Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A workshop to discuss the development of an A-level workshop to teach gravitational waves, and to plan the logistics of delivering the workshop to meet the requirements of the STFC Public Engagement Fellowship "The Dawn of Gravitational Wave Astronomy". Participants included lead educators from the National Space Academy. The future involvement of LEGO LIGO was discussed.

Follow-up meeting Jan 2019 for GCSE resources.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2019
 
Description Gravity and Light 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An evening of talks celebrating the awarding of the 2017 Nobel Prize to Gravitational Waves and the detection of gravitational waves. Speakers were Dr Edward Gomez (Las Cumbres Observatory), Dr Francesco Pannarele (Cardiff University) and Prof Nial Tanvir (University of Leicester). The three short (20min) talks were followed by a drinks reception.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/gravitational-celebrations-tickets-38764563854#
 
Description IOP SE public talk - gravitational waves 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A public talk about Gravitaitonal Waves as part of IOP South East. Approx 120 people attending. Requests for further talks from nearby groups.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Kip Thorne (schools lecture) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A schools talk for GCSE and A-level students to accompany a public talk by Prof Kip Thorne later that evening. Approx 80 students from 5 schools attended. Very well received, and led to further requests for activities. Feedback (before and after) suggests that students appreciated the precision of the technology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/schools-event-kip-thorne-my-romance-with-the-warped-side-of-the-unive...
 
Description Kip Thorne public talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A public talk by Kip Thorne about the discovery of gravitational waves. Complete sell-out - 450 people in attendance. Very well received, with many interesting questions from the audience.

4000 views of talk video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlmMxmWHEfg
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/kip-thorne-my-romance-with-the-warped-side-of-the-universe-tickets-73...
 
Description Nobel Lecture & Institute kickoff 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A public talk by Nobel Laureate Barry Barish about gravitational waves. Audience ~ 300. Evaluation result: 90% reported lecture had inspired them about science
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Pythagorean Astronomy - Nobel Prize special 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Podcast and radio show feat Nobel Prize Winner Barry Barish about gravitational waves.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/physicsoutreach/2018/06/26/pythagorean-astronomy-bonus-in-conversation-wi...
 
Description Pythagorean Astronomy podcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A podcast about astronomy broadcast on Radio Cardiff, and also on the Cardiff Physics website. Interviewees are from around the world, though predominantly the UK. Approx 2500 people listen to each broadcast, and a few hundred subscribe to the podcast. Colleagues featured on the podcast reported enjoying the opportunity to talk about their research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017,2018
URL http://pythagastro.uk
 
Description RS Summer Science Exhibition 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An exhibit at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2017 relating to UK Gravitational Wave research. Around 12000 people visited the exhibition as a whole, and based on the number of freebies given away, around 3000 people visited the exhibit. An online survey (100 responses) reported that: On a scale of 1-5, 94% said that their knowledge of gravitational waves increased by 3 or more, and 79% reported 4 or more. On a similar scale, 88% reported their understanding of LIGO had increased by 3 or more (65% 4 or more). Using paper forms (69 responses), 70% reported that their interest in physics had increased.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Science in Public conference, Cardiff 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Science in Public conference (Dec 2018) - presentation and discussion about innovative engagement strategies
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Smalley Lecture, LVS Ascot 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A talk to around 200 people as part of the Smalley Lecture series hosted by the LVS Ascot school, about the Discovery of Gravitational Waves. The audience included secondary school children, sixth formers, teachers, and members of the general public. There were a lot of questions from the audience both after the talk and over coffee.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Star Attractions National Museum of Wales (Cardiff) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This is a regular event at the National Museum of Wales (Cardiff), at which there are exhibition stands from a range of groups. The School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University, features heavily, and presented material covering a wide range of research areas. A prominent topic is Gravitational Waves, with a number of exhibit activities aimed at a wide range of ages. There were many questions from the audience, as well as an increase in participation from colleagues for this sort of event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019
URL https://museum.wales/cardiff/whatson/9320/Star-Attractions-at-the-Museum/
 
Description Teacher CPD - Gravity and Gravitational Waves 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Teachers were shown a number of resources relating to gravitational waves. Participants requested information on running the workshop in their school, and were sent the appropriate information, as well as being given hard copies. Sessions normally followed workshops with students, and lasted 1-2 hours, though there were also dedicated workshops (such as the IOP regional meetings). Some of these workshops featured LegoLIGO.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018