We are a multi-disciplinary research group that brings together expertise in experimental laser optics, gravitational physics, astrophysics, and advanced theoretical and numerical methods to open a new observational window on the Universe by capturing ripples in the fabric of space-time.
News & Events
Click on an item to read more.
On Wednesday the first results of LISA Pathfinder were published in Physical Review Letters. The results exceeded expectations, to the delight of scientists from Birmingham who were involved in building Pathfinder! This is a significant step toward a space-based gravitational-wave detector.
Members of the group have also published papers on multi-band gravitational-wave astronomy, forming binary black holes through stellar evolution or dynamical interactions in globular clusters, and measuring the properties of intermediate-mass black holes.
Congratulations to Carl-Johan Haster on successfully passing his PhD viva, and to Dr Ilya Mandel on his promotion to Professor!
This is a special issue themed around the detection of GW150914, covering all areas from simulating black hole mergers to the commissioning of the detectors. It also features the latest news from LISA Pathfinder.
Birmingham Gravitational Wave Group members were involved in both contributing feautures (with an interview with John Veitch on the discovery, an article on testing general relativity from Walter Del Pozzo, and an explanation of the waveform from Christopher Berry) and editing the magazine (Andreas Freise is editor-in-chief and Hannah Middleton is deputy editor-in-chief). We hope that you enjoy reading it as much as we did making it!
Today LIGO announced the observation of gravitational waves 100 years after their prediction by Albert Einstein. As part of the global LIGO Scientific Collaboration, scientists from the University of Birmingham have confirmed a major prediction of Einstein's theory of general relativity through their detection of gravitational waves!
On 14th September 2015, gravitational waves from a merging binary black hole 1 billion light years away passed through the Earth and were detected by the twin instruments of Advanced LIGO. The observation was of a binary black hole system whose components had masses of approximately 36 and 29 times the mass of the Sun, which merged to form a new black hole of 62 solar masses. This is the first direct detection of gravitational waves and the first observation of a binary black hole merger. This discovery marks the beginning of gravitational-wave astronomy.
To find out more about this discovery, and the University of Birmingham's involvement, see our press release, or come along to our public event. The papers and associated data can be found at the LIGO Open Science Center.
Interactive computer apps have been an important part of our outreach activities, ever since 2009 when we developed the first apps for an exhibition at the British Science Festival. We have now founded the spin-off company Laser Labs to update our apps and to bring them to popular mobile app stores (iOS and Android).
Our first two apps are now available, try Pocket Black Hole to play with the light bending properties of a black hole and download Stretch and Squash to find our how gravitational waves affect things.
The end of the year has been busy with new publications on how to enhance graviational-wave detectors, what we can learn about the evolution of massive black holes from pulsar timing, and the natal kicks of stellar-mass black holes. 'Prospects for Observing and Localizing Gravitational-Wave Transients with Advanced LIGO and Advanced Virgo', which lays out the observing scenarios of the advanced gravitational-wave detectors, has also been updated.
LISA Pathfinder successfully launched at 4:04 am GMT this morning. The ESA mission is designed to test the technology needed for a space-based gravitational-wave detector. These experiments will begin in around 10 weeks, once the satellite reaches the L1 point. We offer congratulations to the ESA Operations team, and wish the team the best of luck for the up-coming work.
Find out more about the University of Birmingham's involvement in the LISA Pathfinder mission.
Congratulations to PhD students Kat Grover and Will Vousden on who have successfully completed their PhD studies! UPDATE 18 November, 2015: Congratulations to Daniel Brown who has also passed his PhD viva!
While we are celebrating PhD students coming to the end of their studies, we are also pleased to welcome new students. Sam Cooper, Siyuan Chen, Sebastian Gaebel and Alejandro Vigna-Gomez are members of our Gravitational Wave Group.
In other news, we have some new publications (including papers on measuring the properties of supermassive black holes with pulsar timing arrays and intermediate-mass black holes with LIGO and Virgo), see our list of publications and science summaries for details.
The Birmingham Gravitational Wave Group expects to fill several Ph.D. positions starting in Autumn 2016. We encourage applications to pursue projects in any of the research areas of the group (experiments, astrophysics and observations), working with Prof. Andreas Freise, Dr Ilya Mandel, Dr Haixing Miao, Dr Conor Mow-Lowry, Dr Alberto Sesana, Prof Alberto Vecchio, and Dr John Veitch. Studentships are assigned on a competitive basis within the School of Physics and Astronomy and, where relevant, the University of Birmingham. In addition to studentships funded by research councils, this year additional funding opportunities are available for outstanding candidates through special programs. Please see the jobs page for more details.
Amid all the excitement of Advanced LIGO starting observing, we have recently had several papers published on topics ranging from pulsar timing to the tidal disruption of star around massive black holes. We have updated our list of publications, and to find out more about our papers, you can read our science summaries.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Einstein's general relativity, our best theory of gravity. General relativity is central to much of modern astrophysics, including gravitational-wave astronomy. To celebrate, the Astrophysics & Space Research Group is running a special season of their public Astronomy in the City events. Each evening will feature a themed talk, covering an aspect of general relativity, including the most violent explosions in the Universe, the mysterious dark energy and Nature's biggest black holes. The first is October 14 when Christopher Berry will give an introduction to Einstein's greatest idea. Subsequent events will be November 25, January 27 and March 9.
As of 4 pm this afternoon, Advanced LIGO has begun its first observing run (O1), marking the formal start of the advanced-detector era of gravitational-wave astronomy. The two Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors have been carefully upgraded over the last seven years, to reach greatly enhanced sensitivity. Having gone through several engineering runs, the detectors (located in Hanford, Washington and Livingston, Louisiana) are now collecting data and looking for astrophysical signals. The event rate for such gravitational waves is uncertain, so we will have to wait to see what we will find. After around three months of observing, the detectors will again be taken off-line for further upgrades before the second observing run next year (hopefully joined by Advanced Virgo). Researchers from Birmingham are involved in both developing the Advanced LIGO instruments and in analysing the data collected. We are extremely excited about the discoveries awaiting us!
LIGO is designed and operated by Caltech and MIT, with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Advanced LIGO is funded by the NSF with significant contributions from international partners, including: in the United Kingdom, the University of Glasgow, the University of Birmingham and Cardiff University funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council; the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, the Albert Einstein Institute, the Laser Zentrum Hannover, and the Leibniz Universität Hannover in Germany; an Australian consortium of universities, led by the Australian National University and the University of Adelaide, and supported by the Australian Research Council.