From Monash and Warwick: “New era for astrophysics with launch of telescope for detecting optical signals from gravitational waves”

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Monash University

05 July 2017

Silvia Dropulich
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Luke Walton, International Press Officer
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A new telescope for detecting optical signatures of gravitational waves has officially launched in La Palma.

Overview of some of the telescopes at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, in the municipality of Garafía on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands

The project, built and operated by international researchers, is partly funded through the Monash Warwick Alliance, an award-winning global partnership between Monash University and the University of Warwick.

Detecting optical signatures of gravitational waves opens a new era in astrophysics, allowing astronomers to probe into the distant Universe and better understand the nature of gravity. The Gravitational-wave Optical Transient Observer (GOTO) was inaugurated at Warwick’s astronomical observing facility in La Palma, Canary Islands, on 3 July 2017.

GOTO is an autonomous, intelligent telescope, which will search for unusual activity in the sky, following alerts from gravitational wave detectors – such as the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Adv-LIGO), which recently secured the first direct detections of gravitational waves.

Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib

ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of space-time, created when massive bodies – particularly black holes and neutron stars – orbit each other and merge at very high speeds. These waves radiate through the Universe at the speed of light, and analysing them heralds a new era in astrophysics, giving astronomers vital clues about the bodies from which they originated – as well as long-awaited insight into the nature of gravity itself.

First predicted over a century ago by Albert Einstein, they have only been directly detected in the last two years, and astronomers’ next challenge is to associate the signals from these waves with signatures in the electromagnetic spectrum, such as optical light. This is GOTO’s precise aim: to locate optical signatures associated with the gravitational waves as quickly as possible, so that astronomers can study these sources with a variety of telescopes and satellites before they fade away.

Dr Duncan Galloway, from the School of Physics & Astronomy at Monash University, said the project is very significant for the Monash Centre for Astrophysics.

“We’ve invested strongly in gravitational wave astronomy over the last few years, leading up to the first detection announced last year, and the telescope project represents a fundamentally new observational opportunity,” Dr Galloway said.

“It’s really satisfying seeing a research collaboration that we’ve build over many years coming to fruition in such an exciting way, and we couldn’t have got here without the support of the Alliance and the participating universities.”

Dr Danny Steeghs, from Warwick’s Astronomy and Astrophysics Group, who is leading the project said:

“After all the hard work put in by everyone, I am delighted to see the GOTO telescopes in operational mode at the Roque de los Muchachos observatory. We are all excited about the scientific opportunities it will provide.”

GOTO is the latest addition to the University of Warwick’s astronomical facility at La Palma, which includes the SuperWASP Exoplanet discovery camera – the most successful ground based exoplanet discovery project in existence.

GOTO is operated on behalf of a consortium of institutions including the University of Warwick, Monash University, the Armagh Observatory, Leicester and Sheffield Universities, and the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT). La Palma is one of the world’s premier astronomical observing sites, owing to the fact that it is the steepest island in the world and has very little pollution – giving researchers clear views of the sky.

See the full Monash article here .
See the full Warwick article here .
My text is from Monash.

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Monash U campus

Monash University (/ˈmɒnæʃ/) is an Australian public research university based in Melbourne, Australia. Founded in 1958, it is the second oldest university in the State of Victoria. Monash is a member of Australia’s Group of Eight and the ASAIHL, and is the only Australian member of the influential M8 Alliance of Academic Health Centers, Universities and National Academies. Monash is one of two Australian universities to be ranked in the The École des Mines de Paris (Mines ParisTech) ranking on the basis of the number of alumni listed among CEOs in the 500 largest worldwide companies.[6] Monash is in the top 20% in teaching, top 10% in international outlook, top 20% in industry income and top 10% in research in the world in 2016.[7]

Monash enrolls approximately 47,000 undergraduate and 20,000 graduate students,[8] It also has more applicants than any university in the state of Victoria.

Monash is home to major research facilities, including the Australian Synchrotron, the Monash Science Technology Research and Innovation Precinct (STRIP), the Australian Stem Cell Centre, 100 research centres[9] and 17 co-operative research centres. In 2011, its total revenue was over $2.1 billion, with external research income around $282 million.[10]

The university has a number of centres, five of which are in Victoria (Clayton, Caulfield, Berwick, Peninsula, and Parkville), one in Malaysia.[11] Monash also has a research and teaching centre in Prato, Italy,[12] a graduate research school in Mumbai, India[13] and a graduate school in Jiangsu Province, China.[14] Since December 2011, Monash has had a global alliance with the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom.[15] Monash University courses are also delivered at other locations, including South Africa.

The Clayton campus contains the Robert Blackwood Hall, named after the university’s founding Chancellor Sir Robert Blackwood and designed by Sir Roy Grounds.[16]

In 2014, the University ceded its Gippsland campus to Federation University.[17] On 7 March 2016, Monash announced that it would be closing the Berwick campus by 2018.

U Warwick Campus

Warwick is a world-leading university with the highest academic and research standards. But we’re not letting the story end there.

That’s because we’re a place of possibility. We’re always looking for new ways to make things happen. Whether you’re a dedicated student, an innovative lecturer or an ambitious company, Warwick provides a tireless yet supportive environment in which you can make an impact.

And our students, alumni and staff are consistently making an impact – the kind that changes lives, whether close to home or on a global scale.

It’s the achievements of our people that help explain why our levels of research excellence and scholarship are recognised internationally.

It’s a prime attraction for some of the biggest names in worldwide business and industry.

It’s why we’re ranked highly in the lists of great UK and world universities.

All of this contributes to a compelling story, one that’s little more than 50 years old. But who said youth should hold you back from changing the world?