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Paper: Interact Virtually with Gravitational Waves using VIGOR
Volume: 531, ASP2020: Embracing the Future: Astronomy Teaching and Public Engagement
Page: 436
Authors: Urquhart, M.; Kesden, M.; Kitagawa, M.
Abstract: In 2016, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) announcement of the first direct detection of gravitational waves, produced by the merger of binary black holes, was a revolutionary advance in astrophysics decades in the making. Inspired by LIGO's discovery, Virtual Interaction with Gravitational-waves to Observe Relativity (VIGOR) is a web-based educational interactive developed by students under the guidance of a multidisciplinary team of faculty at the University of Texas at Dallas. The original virtual reality interactive simulation and subsequent tablet and web-based versions were tested with middle and high school students in the Women in Physics Advanced Camps at the University of Texas at Dallas as well as the pre-service and in-service teachers serving as camp staff. VIGOR allows students and informal users to explore the gravitational interaction between binary black holes, how gravitational waves distort objects in space-time, and the consequences of the energy they carry away from the system. Users can select the total mass, mass ratio, and binary separation of the black holes. A test mass represented by the Earth is squeezed and stretched by the gravitational waves emitted by the two black holes as they orbit their center of mass. The user can observe the effects of the gravitational waves on the test object with and without the decaying orbits leading to a merger - a necessary consequence of the energy radiated away from the system by the gravitational waves. In this presentation we will introduce the science VIGOR represents, demonstrate the VIGOR interactive simulation, show how to access it for free, and briefly discuss how VIGOR came to be.
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