In summary

  • The next phase in the world-leading ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery launched this week at Swinburne University of Technology
  • New funding from the Australian Research Council will enable OzGrav to continue making breakthrough discoveries over the next seven years
  • OzGrav’s Virtual Universe (OzVU) will also be unveiled at the launch

The next phase in the world-leading ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery, dubbed 'OzGrav 2.0', launched this week at Swinburne University of Technology. The Centre has secured an additional $35 million from the Australian Government to extend its operations until 2031, underscoring its remarkable achievements in this exciting new field of science.

Since its inception in 2017, OzGrav has positioned Australia at the leading edge of international research and discovery in gravitational waves, ushering in a new epoch of astrophysics.

Led by Swinburne’s Professor Matthew Bailes, OzGrav has already achieved many significant accomplishments, all the while emphasising its dedication to equity, education, and research.

Professor Bailes notes that the initial investment in OzGrav “contributed to the birth of a new era of astrophysics. This reinvestment will put us at the forefront of transformational scientific discoveries well into the next decade,” he said.  

“By improving our advanced gravitational wave detectors, we will be able to understand more about our universe, probing neutron stars and black holes and mapping the cosmic evolution of the universe.”

Professor Bailes was notably awarded the 2023 Shaw Prize in Astronomy – widely known as a precursor to the Nobel Prize – for the discovery of fast radio bursts. 

Stellar achievements and global collaboration

OzGrav's contribution to astrophysics is undeniable

Since the centre’s inception, OzGrav has made groundbreaking discoveries, including measuring the violent death spiral of two dense neutron stars via gravitational waves – the first time a cosmic event had been observed and measured in both light and gravitational waves. 

Another highlight was OzGrav scientists making a major breakthrough in quantum physics, by smashing quantum noise limits using pioneering squeezed light technology. 

OzGrav members were jointly awarded the 2020 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for their critical contributions to the first direct detection of gravitational waves, over a century after being first theorised by Einstein in his general theory of relativity. 

Empowered by new funding

The new funding from the Australian Research Council will enable OzGrav to continue making breakthrough discoveries in gravitational wave science, deliver impactful outreach and develop the next generation of graduates over the next seven years. 

This will enable:

  • The discovery of new sources of gravitational waves and extreme electromagnetic events

  • Testing the boundaries or Einstein’s theory of general relativity in the strongest gravitational fields in the universe, using black holes and pulsars 

  • Understanding ultra-dense matter through the observation of neutron stars and their mergers
  • Mapping the cosmic evolution of the universe using gravitational waves and fast radio bursts

Headquartered at Swinburne – a world leader in space research – OzGrav is a collaboration between a number of Australian universities, including the University of Queensland, the Australian National University, the University of Sydney, Monash University, the University of Adelaide, the University of Western Australia and the University of Melbourne. 

It works with collaborators across the world, including CSIRO in Australia; NASA, MIT and Caltech in the US; and European partners such as the European and French Space Agencies.  

Introducing OzGrav's Virtual Universe (OzVU)

To coincide with the launch, OzGrav’s Director, Professor Matthew Bailes will unveil a new application that will be central to OzGrav’s engagement with the public, OzGrav’s Virtual Universe (OzVU). An OzVU prototype was trialled last year in China at the official Shaw Prize public lecture. OzVU enables scientists to quickly visualise and fly around a virtual universe containing everything from the solar system to coalescing black holes and neutron stars. 

OzVU allows its pilot to choose from a large catalogue of 3D astrophysical objects, from the tiniest moons of Mars less than 100km in diameter to blue supergiants millions of times larger, then let them loose in its virtual universe where a built-in physics engine computes their orbits. The graphics are easily transformed into short videos, allowing OzGrav scientists to explain their discoveries to the public through social media and other platforms.

OzVU will also form the basis of a world first digital experience room to be built at Swinburne. The immersive digital space will feature 3D movies and learning experiences created by OzVU on giant floor-to-ceiling LED walls. 

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