Baile » DIAS (Leathanach 2)

Nobel Prize for Physics 2017 Awarded to Discovery of Gravitational Waves

For a couple of years, gravitational waves are the central topic of numerous discussions. What do the physicists find so interesting on them is a combination of four factors, two of them very big and two very small:

1. Usually, gravity is a very weak force. You might find this slightly counter-intuitive since we feel its presence at every moment of our lives, but recall that a small electric charge of a balloon can make your hair stand – even though the gravity of the entire planet tells them otherwise.

2. In contrast to it, a black hole merger is an extremely energetic event. Two black holes, usually weighing like tens of suns, merge into a new black hole – which is lighter than the sum of two. The difference is turned into a colossal amount of energy and radiated in form of gravitational waves.

3. Fortunately, this happens very far away – usually around a billion of light years. It took the signal around one-tenth of the age of the Universe to reach us!

4. This mitigates the effect of gravitation waves by many orders of magnitude – so much that it is nearly impossible to notice them. In the result, they make the 4 km long arms of the LIGO and Virgo detectors periodically shorter and longer by a fraction of a nucleus size. Only the genius design makes the detection possible.

The detected signal is not just a simple beep, it has a rich structure which allows us to extract valuable information about the cataclysmic event.

It was a long journey, that began with the Einstein’s prediction back in 1916. The construction of the LIGO experiment began in 1994, but the first run between the years 2002-2010 lead to no success.

It was only shortly after starting the improved run in 2015 when the first detection exhilarated the team of LIGO/Virgo collaboration. Three of the most dominant figures: Barry C. Barish, Kip S. Thorne and Rainer Weiss were today awarded the Nobel prize (for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves).

This prize does not conclude the story of gravitational waves though. There have been 4 detections officialy announced, all of them originating from a black hole merger. However, there is a gossip that this August gravitational waves from colliding neutron stars have been observed. A neutron star is nearly as extreme as a black hole, but not completely – light can still escape it. This means that might not have only captured the gravitational signal, but also its optic counterpart.

We are all eagerly anticipating what the near future will bring.

Dr. Samuel Kovacik – School of Theoretical Physics, DIAS

CTA Public Event in Dunsink Observatory

Public Open Night Wednesday October 11th

Two talks on the Cherenkov Telescope Array. Gates open at 7:00 pm

Book here

Dr Masha Chernyakova:

New frontiers in science with the Cherenkov Telescope Array.

Abstract: The Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA), will be the Major Global Observatory for very High Energy Gamma-Ray Astronomy over the next decade and beyond. The scientific potential of CTA is extremely broad: from understanding the role of Relativistic Cosmic Particles to the search for Dark Matter. CTA is an explorer of the extreme universe, probing environments from the immediate neighbourhood of Black Holes to Cosmic Voids on the largest scales. In my talk I will overview the most exiting discoveries that CTA should be able to do.

Prof. John Quinn

The Cherenkov Telescope Array: Instrumentation for Exploring the Very High Energy Universe

Abstract: The Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) is a next-generation astronomical facility, currently in the design and prototyping phase, for exploring the Very High Energy (VHE) gamma-ray Universe. The energy range covered by CTA will be from 20 GeV to 300 TeV, allowing for the study of nature’s most powerful particle accelerators, associated with black holes, neutron stars and supernova remnants,
in unprecedented detail (for comparison, the LHC at CERN accelerates protons to energies up to 14 TeV). CTA is being developed by a global consortium of scientists and will have two observatories, one in the northern hemisphere on La Palma in the Canary Islands, and the other in the southern hemisphere at ESO’s Paranal site in Chile. Gamma-ray telescopes are usually placed on satellites in space to get above the Earth’s atmosphere, but CTA will actually use the atmosphere to detect gamma rays via the faint flashes of blue Cherenkov light that are produced when gamma rays are destroyed through interactions with air molecules. In this talk an overview will be given of the CTA telescopes and how they work, and the significant role Irish scientists played in developing this exciting young branch of astronomy will be highlighted.

19th September 2017, M7.1 Mexico earthquake

An earthquake with magnitude 7.1 occurred near Puebla, about 120km from Mexico City on the 19th September 2017 at  18:14:38 UTC. A number of buildings in Mexico City collapsed and at least 200 fatalities have been reported to date. The event happened on the 32nd anniversary of the devastating magnitude 8.1 Mexico City earthquake.

The earthquake was recorded at seismic stations worldwide, including stations of the Irish National Seismic Network (INSN), see seismic waveforms below (select figure to enlarge).

Further information is available from the following webpages:

More information about the INSN is available via this link.

Annual Hamilton Walk – 16th October 2017

The Annual Hamilton Walk, in association with the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Maynooth University, will take place during Maths Week Ireland on Monday 16th October starting from Dunsink Observatory. Advance Booking is essential for this event. More information including booking details can be found here.


dunsink_houseThe walk commemorates Sir William Rowan Hamilton’s famous creation of a strange new number system, called Quaternions, on the banks of the Royal Canal in Dublin on October 16, 1843. Quaternions now play a fundamental role in computer games and animation, special effects in movies, space navigation, physics, engineering and many other areas. The walk will retrace Hamilton’s steps from Dunsink Observatory to Broom Bridge in Cabra where he had his Eureka moment.


Hamilton performed a piece of mathematical graffiti by scratching his quaternion formulas on the canal bridge. In an act of mathematical vandalism, Hamilton opened up a whole new mathematical landscape where mathematicians could now feel free to conceive new algebraic number systems that were not shackled by the rules of ordinary numbers in arithmetic. Hamilton freed algebra from arithmetic and he was called the Liberator of Algebra.

Friday, 22 Sept 2017 – Culture Night (Geophysics programme)

DIAS – Geophysics programme of Culture Night event at 5 Merrion Square:

Earthquakes and other Geohazards: Despite its lack of large earthquakes, Ireland holds a special place in the history of Earthquake studies thanks to the pioneering work of Robert Mallet in the mid-19thcentury. Come see the past and present of live earthquake monitoring worldwide, from the heart of Dublin.

Time: 5pm – 10pm

Address: 5 Merrion Square, Dublin 2

Admission is free.

See Culture Night website for more details about that event.

Photo of MIRI Group Meeting – September 2017

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is due for launch in 2018 and DIAS convened the team working on one of its major instruments MIRI in Dublin (13th to 15th September) to finalize their plans for using the biggest telescope ever put into space. DIAS helped build some of JWST’s hardware and is now developing software to analyze its data.

8th September 2017, M8.1 Mexico earthquake

A major earthquake with magnitude 8.1 occurred offshore Mexico on the 8th September 2017 at 04:49:21 UTC. The epicentre is located about 60km from the coast of the mexican state Chiapas, see map below. The event was felt widely and several casualties and damage to buildings have been reported. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a threat warning for tsunami waves up to three metres high along the coast of Mexico. Maximum wave heights of 1.75 metres were observed at the coast of Chiapas five hours after the earthquake origin time.

The M8.1 earthquake was recorded at seismic stations worldwide, including stations of the Irish National Seismic Network (INSN), see seismic waveforms below (select figure to enlarge).

Further information is available from the following webpages:

More information about the INSN is available via this link.

19th October – School of Cosmic Physics Statutory Public Lecture 2017

**Advance booking is required here**

Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies – School of Cosmic Physics Statutory Public Lecture 2017

Thursday 19th October at 6:30pm

Brave new worlds: the planets in our galaxy

By Professor Giovanna Tinetti, University College London

Location : Theatre C (O’Connor Theatre – Room H2.22), Science Hub, University College Dublin

Abstract: The Earth is special to us – it’s our home. But is it really special as a planet? Every star we can see in the night sky is likely to be orbited by planets. There are probably a thousand billion planets in our galaxy alone. In about twenty years, over 3500 “exoplanets” have been discovered in distant solar systems. There are planets completing a revolution around their mother star in less than one day, as well as planets orbiting two or even three stars or moving on trajectories so eccentric as to resemble comets. Some of them are freezing cold, some are so hot that their surface is molten. But beyond that our knowledge falters: What are they made of? How did they form? What’s the weather like there? Are they habitable? 
 Finding out why are these new worlds as they are and what is the Earth’s place in our galaxy and –ultimately– in the universe, is one of the key challenges of modern astrophysics.

About Professor Tinetti: Giovanna Tinetti is Professor of Astrophysics at University College London where she coordinates a research team on extrasolar planets. Select appointments and achievements include Principal Investigator of the European Research Council-funded program “Exo-Lights”, co-editor of planetary journal ICARUS and Institute of Physics Moseley medal 2011 for pioneering the use of IR transmission spectroscopy for molecular detection in exoplanet atmospheres. She is the Principal Investigator of ARIEL, one of the three candidates for the European Space Agency’s next medium-class (M4) science mission; co-founder and co-director of Blue Skies Space Ltd, which aims at creating new opportunities for science space satellites. Awarded a PhD in Theoretical Physics from the University of Turin in Italy, Giovanna has continued her academic career as NASA Astrobiology Institute/NRC fellow at Caltech/JPL and then as European Space Agency external fellow in Paris, before moving to London in 2007 as Royal Society URF.

3rd September 2017 – Nuclear event in North Korea

On the 3rd September 2017 the Irish National Seismic Network (INSN) recorded a seismic event with epicenter in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), see below plot for the location. The recordings are consistent with the announcement by the DPRK that it has conducted a nuclear test, their sixth since 2006. The event occured at 03:30:01 UTC.

Vibrations caused by the nuclear test were detected by seismic stations of the Irish National Seismic Network (INSN), see waveforms below. Please click the figure to enlarge. Further information about this event can be obtained from these websites:

National Research Policies

National Policy on Ensuring Research Integrity in Ireland

National IP Protocol

KTI website :  http://www.knowledgetransferireland.com/