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Artwork inspired by gravitational wave discovery

Friday 25th November 2016

Gravitational Wave artwork

Gravitational Wave artwork "Infinite LIGO dreams" - Copyright - Penelope Cowley

A large oil painting entitled "Infinite LIGO dreams" inspired by the first ever detection of gravitational waves was unveiled today at the School of Physics and Astronomy.

Penelope Cowley, a local artist who specialises in bringing art and science together, presented her work along with a video showcasing a unique artistic spin on the discovery.

The painting combines a visualisation of data taken from the equipment used to detect the first gravitational waves with an imagination of some of the celestial bodies that are responsible for creating these waves, such as binary black holes and neutron stars.

The video was created in collaboration with Dr Chris North and Ed Fauchon-Jones, as well as sound engineer Jason Charles Rogers, and includes the actual ‘chirp’ of the gravitational wave that was detected.

First proposed by Albert Einstein in 1916, gravitational waves are tiny ripples in space-time that are emitted throughout space as a result of extremely violent cosmic events.

Researchers from the School of Physics and Astronomy played an integral part in the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) collaboration that detected a gravitational wave for the first time last September.

Models developed by the Gravitational Physics Group enabled the LIGO collaboration to pick out the gravitational wave from a cacophony of noise and also determine the origin of the detected gravitational waves.

The models were also used to probe the detailed properties of the two black holes that created the gravitational waves as they collided into each other to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole.

Commenting on the artwork, Penelope said: “I was inspired by the sheer overwhelming immensity of this discovery and after discussions with several members of staff at the University I thought it would be fantastic to create an artwork that celebrated this momentous event in our history.

“When working on the painting I tried to imagine the data as visible waves and then place structures such as binary black holes and neutron stars into a diverse and busy Universe.”

Penelope has previously created artwork inspired by magnetism work undertaken at the School of Physics and Astronomy, and has also been involved in projects with Cardiff University’s Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC).