Abstract: In 2016 the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves; minute distortions in space-time caused by cataclysmic events far away in the universe. In 2017, the collision of two neutron stars was detected by both of the LIGO detectors and the Virgo detector in Italy, triggering a successful follow-up campaign by ground and space-based electromagnetic telescopes. I will talk about the sources of the signals we detected, the physics behind the detectors, and prospects for building a next-gen gravitational-wave observatory known as Cosmic Explorer.
Series Description: The Robert E Pollock Distinguished lectures in Physics are intended to be comprehensible to the public at large. They were originally endowed in his honor by Professor Andrew Bacher in 2022. While at Indiana University from 1970 until his death in 2018, Professor Pollock made many innovative contributions in Experimental Nuclear Physics and Accelerator Physics for which he received the 1992 Tom W. Bonner prize for Nuclear Physics from the American Physical Society. In 2011 he was awarded the IU President’s medal for leading the Indiana University Cyclotron Facility to international prominence.