Prof. Rothstein awarded NASA grant to study gravity waves-Dept of Physics - Carnegie Mellon University

Friday, October 30, 2009

Prof. Rothstein awarded NASA grant to study gravity waves

Prof. Ira Rothstein of the Carnegie Mellon Physics Department has just been awarded a $563,000, 3-year grant from NASA to calculate possible gravity-wave signals from colliding black holes. Prof. Rothstein is the Principal Investigator on the grant and the co-investigator is Dr. Michelle Vallisneri from JPL/Cal Tech.

The grant is for the purpose of calculating the characteristics of gravity waves produced when a binary system of black holes inspirals.  The existence of gravity waves was predicted by Einstein in this Theory of General Relativity, but so far none has ever been directly observed.  Several large gravity-wave detectors, including the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravity Observatory) experiment in the US, have been searching for gravity-wave signals for many years, so far without success. A future space-based experiment LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) is in the planning stages. Crucial to these experiments is knowing what a gravity-wave signal should look like in their detectors.  The collision of 2 black holes is one of the best sources of gravity waves, so it is important that the characteristics of such a signal be quantified as much as possible.