Starts With A Bang

What is the future of gravitational wave astronomy? (Synopsis)

Image credit: R. Hurt – Caltech/JPL.

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” -T.S. Eliot

Now that not just one but two gravitational wave events have been directly detected, we’re officially in the era of true gravitational wave astronomy. LIGO has taught us something unique about stellar mass black holes, and will continue to teach us about these objects, their population statistics, and their merger rates as time goes on.

Image credit: Bohn et al 2015, SXS team, of two merging black holes and how they alter the appearance of the background spacetime in General Relativity.

But beyond that, we’re poised to learn the origin of gamma-ray bursts, to observe neutron star quakes, and once we go to space, to observe supermassive black holes and possibly even the relic gravitational waves from cosmic inflation. The latter would do more than confirm what set up the Big Bang; it would prove that gravity is an inherently quantum force!

Illustration of the density (scalar) and gravitational wave (tensor) fluctuations arising from the end of inflation. Image credit: National Science Foundation (NASA, JPL, Keck Foundation, Moore Foundation, related) – Funded BICEP2 Program.

Go get the whole story on the future of gravitational wave astronomy, and what it takes to get there, over on Forbes today!