March 18, 2016
At 9:50 a.m. GMT on September 14, 2015, The Advanced LIGO detectors sensed a very brief and minute disturbance in the fabric of spacetime. Lasting only two tenths of a second, this small change signaled the beginning of a new era in astronomy. The tiny wiggle was caused by the merger of two black holes 1.3 billion light years away and was so small that it took decades of work to build to most sensitive measuring device in history in order to be able to detect it when it passed through the Earth. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) was designed with this kind of event in mind. This black hole merger is something that cannot be seen, but only heard as a faint “chirp” and it has opened up a new way of observing the Universe. I will tell you the story behind this momentous discovery and what it means for science, as well as the future of LIGO and a worldwide network of gravitational wave detectors.
Dr. Philip Graff completed his Bachelors degrees in Physics and Mathematics from UMBC in 2008 and earned his Ph.D. In Astrophysics from the University of Cambridge in 2012 on a Gates-Cambridge Scholarship. His thesis focused on Bayesian inference for gravitational wave data analysis and the training of artificial neural networks in machine learning. Prior to coming to APL, Philip held a post-doctoral research position with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Maryland, College Park, where he continued his work with Bayesian gravitational wave data analysis and applying machine learning to astrophysics. Philip has been a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration since 2009.