Twenty-one scientists at The University of Western Australia have been recognised for their part in the discovery of gravitational waves, and will receive a share of more than two million dollars in prize money.
The Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics is awarded by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, backed by industry leaders in Silicon Valley including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Russian internet billionaire Yuri Milner.
The Foundation will distribute US$3 million (A$3.99 Million); one third of the prize to those who originated the technique of detection, with the other US$2M dollars (A$2.66 million) to be shared amongst the team of 1012 physicists who designed, built and researched the detectors that made the discovery.
Gravitational waves were detected on September 14, 2015 by both twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, in the United States. The discovery confirmed a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opened an unprecedented new window to the cosmos.
The University of Western Australia was part of an international project team which spent seven years putting together gravitational-wave detector equipment.
The scientists in the experimental team working at the Gingin research centre played a major role in stabilising the detectors which enabled the sensitivity to be raised high enough for detecting the first signal.
Twenty-one of those on the team are from UWA.
UWA Professor David Blair, Director of the research group, said sharing in the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics was deeply satisfying.
"It is wonderful that the whole collaboration has been recognised. So many people have done so much hard work for the discovery. Often it is only the leaders who get recognised,” he said.
David Stacey (UWA Media Manager) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716