Oz universities plan big iron to look for gravitational waves

AU$3.5 million in OzGRav grant will go on new super

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Artist's view of a binary black hole. Pic credit: NASA, ESA and G Bacon (STScI)

A new supercomputer is one of the goodies that Australia's Swinburne University will get in a newly-launched gravitational wave research project.

The university's professor Matthew Bailes is leading an AU$31.3 million initiative called OzGRav, and is drawing together local researchers who already have experience in gravitational wave physics through their contributions to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) project.

LIGO's February announcement that it had observed gravitational waves justified the half-a-billion America has spent confirming one of Albert Einstein's most important predictions.

It's also been a proving ground for technology, and one that's had contributions from various Australian institutions. For example, University of Western Australia professor David Blair has worked on various quantum-level noise reduction techniques for LIGO; while the CSIRO crafted mirrors for the detector.

That kind of work will continue under OzGRav, the university's media release says, and will also be fed back up to LIGO – a partner to the new project – to improve its sensitivity.

OzGRav formally launches in 2017, and the group expects its super (under the guiding hand of designer professor Jarrod Hurley) to arrive later next year. It says 35 per cent of the machine's time will be devoted to gravitational wave projects.

The full list of local partners in OzGRav are Monash University, the Australian National University, the Universities of Melbourne, Western Australia, and Adelaide, CSIRO, and the Australian Astronomical Observatory.

As well as LIGO, international collaborators will include Caltech, the University of Florida, the University of Glasgow, the Max Plank Institutes of Gravitational Physics and Radio Astronomy, MIT, NASA, the University of Warwick, and the University of Urbino in Italy.

The full list of recipients of the government's current round of ARC Centres of Excellence is here. ®

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