Lancaster University: Lancaster researchers help open new window on the Universe as part of £9.4M research project

Researchers at Lancaster are part of an ambitious gravitational wave research project involving multiple universities across the UK.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council has today allocated £9.4million to UK universities and institutes for gravitational wave research, with hopes to continue the ground-breaking science.

Professor Grahame Blair, STFC Executive Director of Programmes, said: “Today’s exciting news from the gravitational wave community shows that space still holds secrets to be uncovered in this dynamic field of research.

“From first witnessing these ripples in space-time a few short years ago, we are now seeing a rich harvest of new observations coming in. It goes to show why continuing to fund this research is vital in enhancing our understanding of the Universe.”

The UK gravitational-wave community, as members of the world-wide LIGO Scientific Collaboration, will help drive forward increasing sensitivity of the Advanced LIGO and Virgo gravitational-wave detectors and be at the forefront of extracting novel astrophysical discoveries from their data.

The funded projects include:

A consortium including Lancaster University, Glasgow University, Strathclyde University, and the University of the West of Scotland.
Cardiff University
Birmingham University
Cambridge University
Nottingham University
Portsmouth University
Dr Matthew Pitkin, a lecturer in the Physics Department at Lancaster University and one of the Principal Investigators on the grant, said: “This funding allows the UK gravitational-wave community to continue in its many leading roles in the world-wide efforts to detect gravitational waves and produce pioneering research in the fledgling field of gravitational-wave astronomy.

“The funding covers a period when we expect to see new data of unprecedented sensitivity from the Advanced LIGO and Virgo gravitational-wave detector network. This will enable new discoveries about some of the most exotic objects in the Universe – black holes and neutron stars – and hopefully unveil gravitational-wave signals from previously undetected sources, such as rapidly rotating neutron stars known as pulsars.”

Themes the projects will be working on:

Realising the full scientific potential of the O4 and O5 observing runs at the Advanced LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave detectors, including substantial increases in detector sensitivity and subsequent increases in the rate of observed events such as black hole mergers.
Fundamental research on suspension systems/materials and dielectric coatings at room and cryogenic temperatures essential for successful operation of the Advanced LIGO+ and Virgo+ detectors and associated planned upgrades, and strategically critical for any future generation of detectors.
Support for Advanced LIGO operations, underpinning UK involvement in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and access to observing data.
Exploiting gravitational wave data to answer fundamental theoretical questions about the nature of the universe and expanding on the standard model of particle physics.
Using gravitational wave data to produce modelling on possible nature of dark matter and dark energy.

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