On September 14, 2015, two unusual observatories, one in Louisiana and another in Washington State, recorded the near-simultaneous arrival of gravitational waves, the first time these subtle distortions of space had been detected, though their existence was predicted by Albert Einstein a century earlier. The discovery, perhaps the most remarkable and challenging astronomical measurement of the century, opened up a new way for astronomers to study the universe and won the 2017 Nobel Prize for the scientists who developed it. We'll give some background on the nature of these odd ripples in the cosmos, and explain how, by observing changes on the earth's surface that are far smaller than the nucleus of an atom, astronomers are now able to study some of the most powerful events in the universe-- the collisions of black holes and neutron stars millions of light years away.
Dr. Marschall is a Professor Emeritus at Gettysburg College where over a 43 years, he taught courses in astronomy, physics, philosophy and history of science, and science writing. Educated at Cornell University and the University of Chicago, he has been a visiting Professor at Boston University, an Erskine Fellow at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ, and a visiting scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and Yale University. He was awarded the 2005 Education prize from the American Astronomical Society and the 2014 Richard Emmons Award for his role in fostering undergraduate and public education in astronomy nationwide.