Titan researchers were key contributors to the first direct detection of gravitational waves. These waves were produced by the collision of two black holes 1.3 billion years ago and their discovery confirmed a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity.

The gravitational waves were detected on September 14, 2015, by twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, funded by NSF and conceived, built and operated by Caltech and MIT. The NSF and LIGO Scientific Collaboration—a group of more than 1,000 scientists from universities across the U.S. and 14 other countries, including Cal State Fullerton—announced the discovery on February 11, 2016.

“This discovery inaugurates a new era of astronomy,” says Dr. Joshua Smith, associate professor of physics, and CSUF Dan Black, director of Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy Center.

Titan researchers also include Dr. Jocelyn Read and Dr. Geoffrey Lovelace, both assistant professors of physics, and Dr. Alfonso Agnew, professor of mathematics. More than 40 students have worked on this groundbreaking research, with seven alumni currently enrolled in doctoral programs at Caltech, Syracuse University, and Louisiana State University.

Dr. Smith, Dr. Read and Dr. Lovelace, along with Joseph Areeda, a computation specialist, and six physics graduates, are co-authors of the Physical Review Letters journal article outlining the discovery. Dr. Smith and Dr. Read also are leaders in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration working groups that searched for and validated the gravitational-wave signal. Dr. Lovelace and his students contributed simulations of two black holes merging that are featured in the journal article.

CSUF scientists have received over $2 million in funding from NSF and the Research Corporation for Science Advancement for their research.