The new ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav), based at Swinburne University of Technology, is already making significant discoveries, with researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence announcing their involvement in the detection of gravitational waves from the death spiral of two neutron stars in October 2017.

For the first time, scientists measured the violent death spiral of two dense neutron stars via gravitational waves, and observed the subsequent fireball appear in the heavens. Never before have we known exactly where in the Universe gravitational waves originate from, or been able to see the colossal events that created them.

The gravitational wave detection was quickly followed up with conventional telescopes, which observed a distinctive fireball in space—a truly colossal event, of the kind thought responsible for creating the heavier precious metals like gold, out of more mundane atoms that make up the bulk of matter in the universe.

OzGrav is a fundamental part of Australia’s role in this new field, and the international collaboration that is the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). Since 2002, Australian research effort at the LIGO and a range of other gravitational wave-related research has received significant support through a number of ARC funding schemes including the Discovery Projects; Linkage, Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities; and Future Fellowships schemes.

This latest landmark astrophysical discovery involved an international team including dozens of Australian researchers and the LIGO-Virgo collaboration; and followed the joint awarding of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics to Rainer Weiss and Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves’.

Led by Professor Matthew Bailes, OzGrav has recently launched on one of Australia’s most powerful high performance computers, which will be used to process the data from such events in real time. The new computer called OzSTAR is designed to perform the equivalent of 10,000 calculations for every one of the 100 billion stars in the milky way galaxy, in one second. Such supercomputing capacity and research expertise is necessary to fully grasp the potential of the field of gravitational science, with the first confirmed detection of gravitational waves in 2016.

Image: OzSTAR supercomputer: Data-driven discovery and high performance computing.
Image courtesy: ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery.