Historic first gravitational wave detection stars at April 28 Friedman Lecture

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A free presentation titled "The Dawn of Gravitational Wave Astronomy" will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 28, in 102 Thomas Building on the Penn State University Park Campus. Chad Hanna, assistant professor of physics at Penn State, will present the lecture. The event is part of the 2016 Friedman Lecture Series in Astronomy, which is free and open to the public.

Hanna's presentation will recount Albert Einstein’s first prediction of the existence of gravitational waves, made 100 years ago. He also will discuss what causes gravitational waves, how the Laser Interferometric Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) searches for these faint signals, how the historic first detection of gravitational waves was achieved, and what the future holds for gravitational wave astronomy. Hanna is co-chair of one of LIGO’s largest astrophysics working groups, the Compact Binary Coalescence group, which was instrumental in identifying the source of the historic recent first detection of gravitational waves.

“I was really happy when the announcement of this detection was made,” said Chris Palma, senior lecturer in the Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. “Many of our students in our major and colleagues in our department and in the Penn State Department of Physics have worked for years to reach this point. It was great to see all of that work pay off with this amazing detection, and I can’t wait to see what new things we will learn now that we have an entirely new window into the Universe.”

In addition to his central leadership role in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, Hanna is a member of the Penn State LIGO group, which is part of the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos directed by Abhay Ashtekar, Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Physics. Hanna's research is focused on detecting gravitational waves emitted by pairs of very massive objects just before they merge — either two neutron stars or two black holes. He was honored in 2015 with the National Science Foundation CAREER award, the foundation's most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar through research, education, and the integration of education and research.

The Friedman Lecture Series in Astronomy is hosted by the Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and is funded largely by the Ronald M. and Susan J. Friedman Outreach Fund in Astronomy. Ronald Friedman is a member of the department's Board of Visitors.

For more information, contact Chris Palma, senior lecturer of astronomy and astrophysics, at 814-865-2255 or cxp137@psu.edu.

Last Updated April 25, 2016