NSF Funds NANOGrav Physics Frontiers Center; Green Bank Telescope a Part of Five-Year Program

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has renewed its support of the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) with a $17 million grant over 5 years to operate the NANOGrav Physics Frontiers Center (PFC).

The NANOGrav PFC will address a transformational challenge in astrophysics: the detection and characterization of low-frequency gravitational waves. The most promising sources of low-frequency gravitational waves are supermassive binary black holes that form via the mergers of massive galaxies.  Additional low-frequency gravitational-wave sources include cosmic strings, inflation, and other early universe processes.

NANOGrav’s five-year program will make use of the unique capabilities and sensitivity of the Green Bank Telescope. The GBT is located in the National Radio Quiet Zone, which protects the incredibly sensitive telescope from unwanted radio interference, enabling it to study pulsars and other astronomical objects. It also uses data from the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico and the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) in Canada. In addition, NANOGrav will use legacy Arecibo Observatory data.

NANOGrav was founded in 2007 and at the time consisted of 17 members in the United States and Canada. It is now a highly-distributed collaboration with around 200 students and scientists at about 40 institutions around the world. Over the past few years, NANOGrav PFC students, postdocs, and senior personnel have pushed the frontiers of multi-messenger astrophysics, achieved an unprecedented sensitivity to low-frequency gravitational waves, and enabled a transition into astrophysically interesting territory: NANOGrav is now poised to detect low-frequency gravitational waves and use them to study the universe in a completely new way.

This news was adapted from a press release created by NANOGrav. Read the full press release at their website.