Gingin ready for new era in astronomy

Professor David Blair at the Gingin Gravitational Research Centre on Military Rd.

RESEARCHERS from the Gingin Gravitational Research Centre say only time will tell where studying gravitational waves will take humankind.

Earlier this month the University of Western Australia said in a world first, scientists had observed ripples in the fabric of space-time called gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe.

The university said this confirmed a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opened an unprecedented new window to the cosmos.

One of the Gingin researchers, UWA PhD student Carl Blair, has been working setting up systems, first proposed and tested at Gingin, that involve careful heating of the mirrors to make tiny changes in the mirror shape.

In From The Century Quest for Gravitational Waves his father Professor David Blair and Professor Li Ju argue there is a need for an Australian detector as presently the world network of gravitational wave detectors is confined to the northern hemisphere.

They said Australia had 40 years of experience, innovations and technologies, and a dynamic young team that was part of the first discovery, who were ready to build Australia’s future in gravitational astronomy.

They said an Australian detector would bring a dramatic improvement to the global array capability.

“With a southern hemisphere detector we will be able to map the signals, identify the galaxies or galaxy clusters they came from, and tell radio, optical and x-ray telescopes where to look,’’ they said.

“This is essential if we are to understand where the black holes are located and where they came from, and to find answers to many new questions.

“The addition of a southern hemisphere detector improves the sensitivity of the world array, roughly doubling the number of accessible sources.

“Accidental false positives from interference are suppressed by the power of the number of detectors in the array.

The addition of an Australian detector would reduce such interference to a negligible level.

“Thus Australia has an important future role in gravitational astronomy.’’

On 14 September last year the Advanced LIGO was being readied to start long term observations.

Australian students Carl Blair from UWA and Eleanor King from The University

of Adelaide were among the small teams operating the detectors.

In the early hours of the morning a signal came in almost simultaneously at both LIGO observatories 3002km apart.

In 1999 the Western Australian Government provided a site for a future large scale detector, the Australian International Gravitational Observatory.

The Australian Consortium developed the Gingin Research Centre on the Military Rd site to develop technology for the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory.

The WA Government proposed and supported the development of the Gravity

Discovery Centre as a centre for promoting science education and for involving the public in the discovery of the new spectrum of gravitational waves.

With UWA, the centre has tested a new high school physics curriculum called Einstein First.