Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Race To Detect Gravity Waves

.. and you think the only race we have is the one between the Tevatron and the LHC to find the Higgs!

Nature News has a very fascinating race between different group to be the first to detect gravitational waves {Link open for free only for a limited time). The race is between those using orbiting detectors such as the Fermi telescope, versus the interferometry-based ground detectors such as LIGO.

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is identifying the locations of dozens of these galactic clocks, allowing radio astronomers to follow up and monitor them. Researchers can deduce whether a passing gravitational wave has jostled Earth by watching for slight variations in the arrival time of pulsar radio-wave bursts — just fractions of a second over the course of years. If these efforts succeed, researchers will have a new tool for exploring the cosmic cataclysms — colliding black holes, for example — that are thought to generate gravitational waves (see graphic).

The shoestring effort, involving groups in Australia, Europe and North America, could beat larger and better-funded groups that use laser interferometry to try to detect gravitational waves by their tiny effects on the movements of test masses. "People are finally taking notice," says Scott Ransom, an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia, who last week announced the discovery of 17 millisecond pulsars at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington DC.

More info on LIGO can be found here.

As someone not involved in this race, I supposed I don't care all that much who detects what first. All I care about is the detection itself.


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