Gravitational Wave team shares in major physics prizes—4 May 2016

Researchers from The Australian National University (ANU)—supported through funding from the Australian Research Council—who worked on the first detection of gravitational waves, are among the team that has won two prestigious physics prizes: the $3 million Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics and the $500,000 Gruber Prize for Cosmology.

Thirteen ANU physicists shared in the Special Breakthrough prize, which was awarded to 1014 people from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and its sister experiment, the Virgo Collaboration, who contributed to the discovery of gravitational waves in September 2015.

"It's been a 30-year effort and to have everyone recognised is really special," said Professor Susan Scott, from ANU. "We all know individually the roles we played, and if we didn't have everyone that we've had in the collaboration we couldn't have achieved what we've done."

Gravitational waves are ripples in space and time caused by the most violent events in the Universe. They were predicted by Einstein's Theory of General Relativity in 1915, but Einstein himself thought they would be too small for humans to detect. However the LIGO collaboration successfully detected a gravitational wave caused by a collision between two black holes 1.3 billion light years away with two four-kilometre long experiments at either end of the United States. By the time the wave reached the Earth, it had faded to be so small that it moved the two sets of LIGO detectors only one ten thousandth of the diameter of a proton.

Media issued by The Australian National University.

Image courtesy: The Australian National University.

Original Published Date: 
Wednesday, May 4, 2016