Episode 63: How Do Scientists LISTEN to Black Holes?

Meet the Expert:  Dr. Eric Thrane, Cosmologist and Astrophysicist

Dr. Eric Thrane, cosmologist

Dr. Thrane is  a Professor at Monash University in the School of Physics and Astronomy where he studies cosmology, astrophysics, and gravity. He specialises in astrophysical inference using data from gravitational-wave observatories to answer questions such as: how do compact binaries form, what is the fate of massive stars, what is the nature of matter at the highest possible densities? Dr. Thrane also uses data from traditional electromagnetic telescopes to study extreme astrophysical objects such as supermassive black holes and gamma-ray bursts. He holds an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship andhe  am the Data Theme Leader for OzGrav: the ARC Centre for Gravitational-wave Discovery. Dr. Thrane is the OzGrav Node Leader for Monash University and he has been a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration since 2008.



“LIGO stands for “Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory”. It is the world’s largest gravitational wave observatory and a marvel of precision engineering. Comprising two enormous laser interferometers located 3000 kilometers apart, LIGO exploits the physical properties of light and of space itself to detect and understand the origins of gravitational waves (GW).

LIGO (and other detectors like it) is unlike any other observatory on Earth. Ask someone to draw a picture of an observatory and odds are they will draw a gleaming white telescope dome perched on a mountain-top. As a gravitational wave observatory, LIGO bears no resemblance to this whatsoever, as the aerial photo of the LIGO Livingston interferometer at right clearly illustrates.”  — from the LIGO Caltech website

Telescope Dome in N. California

An iconic telescope dome. The 200-inch Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory in northern San Diego County, California. (Tylerfinvold/Wikimedia Commons)

LIGO Detector in Livingston

LIGO Livingston. The arms you see are concrete structures that protect the vacuum tubes, which reside just inside. This concrete ‘enclosure’ shelters the critically-important steel vacuum tubes from the environment. (Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab)











See Dr. Thrane working at the LIGO Hanford Observatory HERE





Listen to the podcast and see if you can tell which is a black hole colliding and how close or far away it is. Did you get them right?

Then look up information about a black hole or LIGO and draw a picture of gravitational waves or a black hole.

With your parent’s permission, send us your drawing

Send us a picture  or share with us on our Twitter , Instagram or Facebook page!



A Black Hole is NOT a Hole book

Highlighted book for this episode!

A Black Hole is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano (Author), Michael Carroll (Illustrator)

A black hole isn’t really a hole . . . is it? Get ready to S-T-R-E-T-C-H your mind with this beloved and best-selling science book. Updated with an all-new chapter about the first black-hole image ever!





Book List:

Black Holes by Ker Than

Everything about Black Holes  by Baby Professor

Astronomy for Kids: How to Explore Outer Space with Binoculars, a Telescope, or Just Your Eyes! Paperback by Dr. Bruce Betts

Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson (Author), Gregory Mone

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