CITA congratulates the 2017 Physics Nobel Prize laureates

Gravitational Waves, As Einstein Predicted
Image Credit: Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish, and Kip S. Thorne for “decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves.” In 2015, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration detected the gravitational waves emitted by the collision of two massive black holes over a billion light years away. This monumental discovery was the first direct detection of these ghostly ripples in the fabric of spacetime, and confirmed a major prediction of Einstein’s theory of relativity. The announcement of this detection in February, 2016 marked the culmination of decades of effort by scientists and engineers to design and build the twin LIGO detectors. Professors Weiss and Thorne, together with Ron Drever (deceased), founded the LIGO project, developing a method for detecting gravitational waves using precision laser interferometry. Barry Barish founded the LIGO Laboratory and served as the leader of the LIGO project through the phase of construction and early observations.

CITA hosts Canada’s first and largest LIGO group, and members of CITA participated in the landmark first detection of gravitational waves, dubbed GW150914. Former CITA member Kipp Cannon (University of Tokyo) helped develop methods to search for faint signals in the detector noise, as did graduate student Heather Fong. Carl-Johan Haster participated in the characterization of the signal, an essential step that revealed the masses and properties of the black holes that merged. Former CITA professor Harald Pfeiffer has developed the models used for detection and characterization of the signals, and helped in the effort to compare GW150914 to the best theoretical predictions available, involving simulations of binary black hole collisions on supercomputers. Further, Professor Thorne was CITA’s Distinguished Sackler Lecturer in 2007 and has served on the review committee for CITA in the past.

Current members of the CITA LIGO group continue to work to discover and characterize gravitational wave signals, including the recently announced detection of a binary black hole by both the LIGO Scientific and Virgo Collaborations. Their contributions have been reported in the news by:

CBCHow Canadian scientists contributed to Nobel Prize-winning discovery

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