Summary We are now at the dawn of gravitational wave astronomy. On September 14, 2015 at 2:50am PDT, Advanced LIGO made the world’s first direct observation of gravitational waves. These waves emanated from the collision and merger of 2 black holes a billion light years away, each about 30 times the mass of the sun and spinning around each other at half the speed of light. Since then, Advanced LIGO has observed more events like this. This talk will explore the basics of gravitational waves from Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity and the history of gravitational wave detection from the earliest detectors on Earth to future observatories in space. We will then take a look at the results from first observed black hole mergers. Surprisingly, gravitational waves are a lot like sound waves, so we’ll listen to the sounds of distant black hole collisions. Finally, we’ll take a peak inside the Advanced LIGO observatories to see what’s involved in this new field of astronomy.

Brett Shapiro is a Postdoctoral Scholar at Stanford University working on the LIGO project. He studies ways to better control the LIGO observatories, and how to improve them with future upgrades. Brett obtained his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from MIT in 2012 doing research on isolating the LIGO mirrors from the vibrating ground. He obtained a B.S. in Engineering Science from Penn State in 2005.

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