WA Governor hears of need for gravitational wave detector

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WA Governor Kim Beazley listens to head astronomer Rick Tonello talk about the Sky Lab oxygen tank piece on display before hearing of the need for a gravitational wave detector at the Gingin Gravity Discovery Centre. Picture: Anita McInnes

WHILE on a tour of the Gravity Discovery Centre this week WA Governor Kim Beazley heard from Gingin researchers about the need for a gravitational wave detector in the southern hemisphere.

At present the researchers are confined to finding ways to iron out some of the issues affecting the northern hemisphere detectors as their existing detector is too small.

Those in the northern hemisphere can have arms that are some km in length while the Gingin arms are 80m.

While at the Gravity Discovery Centre on Military Rd on Tuesday Mr Beazley, who has been Governor since May 2018, went for a spin in a capsule designed to demonstrate gravitational forces with guide and OzGrav team member Hayden Crisp.

But it was the potential of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) research centre, which really caught his attention.

“The part that interested me most about the Gravity Discovery Centre was the AIGO research centre,’’ he said.

“This was the focal point of achievement though not part of the public tour.”

OzGrav’s mission is to capitalise on the historic first detections of gravitational waves to understand the extreme physics of black holes and warped spacetime and to inspire the next generation of Australian scientists and engineers through this new window on the Universe.

After gravitational waves were first detected in 2015 OzGrav’s Professor Ju Li (UWA) said: “It is extraordinary that with one faint sound, the faintest sound ever detected, we have created one giant leap in our understanding of the universe.’’ 

The first direct detection of gravitational waves in 2015 was followed in 2017 by the first observations of the collision of two neutron-stars. The accompanying explosion was subsequently seen in follow-up observations by telescopes across the globe and ushered in a new era of multi-messenger astronomy.
The Gingin researchers have been talking about the need for an Australian detector for some years.

In Gingin ready for new era in astronomy, (Yanchep News Online, February 16) reported that UWA’s Professor David Blair, who developed the niobium bar gravitational wave detector NIOBE, and Professor Li Ju said Australia had an important future role in gravitational astronomy as the nation had more than 40 years of experience, innovations and technologies.

It also had a dynamic young team that was part of the first discovery, who were ready to build Australia’s future in gravitational astronomy.

They argued there was a need for an Australian detector as presently the world network of gravitational wave detectors was confined to the northern hemisphere.

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