Launch of telescope for detecting optical signals from gravitational waves

A state-of-the-art telescope for detecting optical signatures of gravitational waves - built and operated by an international research collaboration, led by the Universities of Warwick and Monash - has been officially launched.

The Gravitational-wave Optical Transient Observer (GOTO) was inaugurated at the astronomical observing facility in the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias on La Palma, Canary Islands, on 3 July 2017.

GOTO is an autonomous, intelligent telescope, which will search for unusual activity in the sky, following alerts from gravitational wave detectors - such as the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Adv-LIGO), which recently secured the first direct detections of gravitational waves.

GOTO’s precise aim is to locate optical signatures associated with the gravitational waves as quickly as possible, so that astronomers can study these sources with a variety of telescopes and satellites before they fade away.

Professor Paul O'Brien, heading up the Leicester GOTO team, said: “We are delighted to create this innovative and powerful facility which will be a unique probe of the universe.”

"Our team have studied catastrophic events in the universe that can lead to the emission of gravitational waves, and we are hoping to find a coincident signal from one these objects with a gravitational wave detection. This is not easy, but GOTO will give us the chance to search large areas of the visible sky efficiently, and make discoveries of many kinds," commented GOTO member Dr Rhaana Starling from our University.

Professor Paul Monks, the University of Leicester’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Head of the College of Science and Engineering, was in attendance at the inauguration ceremony.