Australia commits $31.3 million to gravitational waves research centre

Australian Senator Simon Birmingham with OzGrav director Professor Matthew Bailes. Image courtesy of Swinburne University of Technology.

Australia’s Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, has opened the Australian Research Council’s $31.3 million Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery at the Swinburne University of Technology, according to the University’s press release.

The centre, known as OzGrav, has been established to capitalise on the 2015 discovery of gravitational waves, which resulted recently in the awarding of the 2017 Nobel Prize to three US physicists, Professors Kip Thorne, Rainer Weiss and Barry Barish.

Senator Birmingham said that OzGrav will play a critical role in keeping Australia at the leading edge internationally of gravitational wave research and discovery.

“This facility builds on decades of Australian investment in gravitational wave and pulsar science and merges research activities by Australian and international researchers into a focused national program,” he said. “The Centre of Excellence will help equip researchers with cutting edge technology to further advance research across multiple disciplines, from lasers and radio instrumentations to big data and astronomy.”

Swinburne will host OzGrav in collaboration with five other universities – Australian National University, the University of Western Australia, Monash University, the University of Melbourne and the University of Adelaide – as well as prestigious international partner organisations such as MIT and Caltech.

The launch included a video-link congratulations from Nobel Laureate Professor Barry Barish who said that Australian gravitational wave scientists had played an integral role in all international gravitational wave discoveries to date.

At the launch, director of OzGrav, Professor Matthew Bailes, gave the audience an interactive walk-through the discovery of gravitational waves, saying the centre is an opportunity to bring together gravitational wave researchers from across Australia.

He described gravitational wave astronomy as the “hottest topic” in astronomy at present.

“The field is just two years old,” he said. “This centre is Australia’s chance to maximise its involvement in the dawn of this new area of astrophysics. It will give Australian scientists and students the opportunity to fully participate in the birth of gravitational wave astronomy.”

“It will also enable us to develop amazing technologies like quantum squeezing to further enhance the detectors, supercomputers and advanced algorithms to find the waves, and these will lead to a revolution in our understanding of the Universe,” he explained.

Last month, the three US Professors who led the way in discovering gravitational waves in 2015 were awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Soon after, OzGrav researchers made another significant announcement – a further detection of gravitational waves from the death spiral of two neutron stars.

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