The 2017 Rossi Prize has been awarded to Gabriela González and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration for the first direct detections of gravitational waves, for the discovery of merging black hole binaries and for beginning the new era of gravitational-wave astronomy.
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, is designed to open the field of gravitational-wave astrophysics through the direct detection of gravitational waves predicted by Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. LIGO consists of two widely separated interferometers within the U.S.--one in Hanford, Wash. and the other in Livingston, La.--operated in unison to detect gravitational waves. In 2016, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration reported the detection of two separate signals of gravitational waves from the merger of black holes.
González is a professor of Physics and Astronomy at Louisiana State University, and spokesperson of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration that includes more than 1,000 scientists from more than 90 institutions around the world.
"The discovery of gravitational waves is a scientific milestone that took a large group of people working very hard for decades," González said. "This is, however, just the beginning. We have opened the field of gravitational-wave astronomy, and we'll learn about distortions in spacetime produced by cataclysmic events, even if they are dark in the electromagnetic spectrum."
She added: "We look forward to exciting decades of new discoveries, not just with LIGO and Virgo ground based detectors, but with a larger network and other instruments spanning the gravitational wavelength spectrum, combining efforts with telescopes in multi-messenger astronomy to explore the high-energy Universe."
The AAS High Energy Astrophysics Division, or HEAD, awards the Rossi Prize in recognition of significant contributions as well as recent and original work in high-energy astrophysics. The prize is in honor of Professor Bruno Rossi, an authority on cosmic ray physics and a pioneer in the field of x-ray astronomy. The prize also includes an engraved certificate and a $1,500 award. González will give a lecture at the 231st AAS meeting in National Harbor, MD, in January 2018.