College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Exhibit at University Museum Centers on Gravitational-Wave Astronomy

One of Einstein’s most intriguing predictions – the existence of gravitational waves – is the theme of a traveling exhibition at the University of Mississippi Museum.

gravitational-waves “Astronomy’s New Messengers: Listening to the Universe with Gravitational Waves” features a working interactive laser interferometer, presentations on large plasma-screen televisions and an interactive “Black Hole Hunter” computer game. The display, which continues through Sept. 6, is on loan from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO.

The LIGO Scientific Collaboration is a group of 600 scientists at universities around the United States and in 11 foreign countries. An Ole Miss team of researchers is affiliated with the collaboration’s Compact Binary Coalescence Group, which studies the detection of gravitational waves.

“The acquisition of this touring exhibition is a collaborative project of the University Museum and the Department of Physics and Astronomy,” said Holly Bethune, curator of education for the museum. “The show is part of the International Year of Astronomy, which commemorates the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s use of a telescope to study the skies and Kepler’s publication of ‘Astronomia Nova.'”

Exhibition-related educational events include an early release day movie, tour and activities for Oxford School District students from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Aug. 26; a public reception at 2 p.m. Sept. 1; a “Too Cool After School” movie, tour and activities for area students at 3:15 p.m. Sept. 2; and a brown bag luncheon at noon Sept. 3.

“Our target audience is people who have some general awareness of astronomy, but essentially no understanding of the fundamental nature of gravitational-wave astronomy and its relevance to basic physics,” said Marco Cavaglia, UM assistant professor of physics and astronomy and principal LIGO investigator. “The National Science Foundation is funding this touring exhibition, which is also visiting Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee and Florida.”

The LIGO project was designed and is operated by Caltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the purpose of detecting gravitational waves, and for the development of gravitational-wave observations as an astronomical tool. It is supported by the NSF, with additional contributions from the U.K.’s Science and Technologies Facilities Council and Germany’s Max Planck Society.

University Museum, Fifth Street and University Avenue, is open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1-4:30 p.m. Sundays. For more information, visit https://www.olemiss.edu/museum or call 662-915-7073. For assistance related to a disability, call 662-915-7084.