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Conference Paper

Gravitational-wave Astronomy: Opening a New Window on the Universe for Students, Educators and the Public


Schutz,  B. F.
Astrophysical Relativity, AEI-Golm, MPI for Gravitational Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Cavaglia, M., Hendry, M., Ingram, D., Milde, S., Reitze, D., Riles, K., et al. (2008). Gravitational-wave Astronomy: Opening a New Window on the Universe for Students, Educators and the Public. In M. G. Gibbs, J. Barnes, J. G. Manning, & B. Partridge (Eds.), Preparing for the 2009 International Year of Astronomy: A Hands-On Symposium (pp. 328-332).

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0012-272E-D
The nascent field of gravitational-wave astronomy offers many opportunities for effective and inspirational astronomy outreach. Gravitational waves, the ``ripples in space-time'' predicted by Einstein's theory of General Relativity, are produced by some of the most energetic and dramatic phenomena in the cosmos, including black holes, neutron stars and supernovae. The detection of gravitational waves will help to address a number of fundamental questions in physics, from the evolution of stars and galaxies to the origin of dark energy and the nature of space-time itself. Moreover, the cutting-edge technology developed to search for gravitational waves is pushing back the frontiers of many fields, from lasers and materials science to high performance computing, and thus provides a powerful showcase for the attractions and challenges of a career in science and engineering. For several years a worldwide network of ground-based laser interferometric gravitational-wave detectors has been fully operational, including the two LIGO detectors in the United States. These detectors are already among the most sensitive scientific instruments on the planet and in the next few years their sensitivity will achieve further significant improvement. Those developments promise to open an exciting new window on the universe, heralding the arrival of gravitational-wave astronomy as a revolutionary, new observational field. In this paper we describe the extensive program of public outreach activities already undertaken by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, and a number of special events which we are planning for IYA2009.