Gravitational Wave Noise Hunting

Link to the demonstrator: in English


Age: 16-18

Duration: 4 hours

Equipment: PC with internet connection

Contact details

Author: Emmanuel Chaniotakis (EA)
Contact: info[at]frontiers-project[dot]eu


The discovery of Gravitational Waves provided humankind with a new window to the universe, allowing us to probe extreme cosmic phenomena and testing nature at its limits. This scenario provides a step by step introduction to gravitational waves and their detection, introduces the concept of detector sensitivity and through a game-based approach, introduces students to the different noise parameters that affect detector performance.


Learning outcomes:

  • To help students understand the meaning of noise.
  • To guide students to identify sources of noise for gravitational wave detectors.
  • To help students correlate the reach of a detector with its noise level.
  • To show how to compromise budget with performance.
  • To present how to estimate the most important sources of noise and make data driven decisions.


Prior knowledge:

  • Newton’s law of gravitation
  • Waves: Definition and properties
  • Wave interference
  • Signal and noise 
  • Orders of magnitude


Concepts introduced:


  • Gravitational wave
  • Interferometer
  • Sources of noise
  • sensitivity
  • reach



Learning intentions:

By the end of this descriptor, students should be able to:

  • describe roughly what gravitational waves are.
  • explain that detector noise deters us from exploring farther regions in the universe using gravitational waves as messengers.
  • compare the significance of different sources of noise in a gravitational wave detector.
  • explain that even though the effects of gravitational waves on earth are minuscule, these derive from very high energy processes.


Key activities:

  1. Building a virtual gravitational wave detector
  2. Identifying sources of noise and taking corrective actions to reduce it
  3. Searching for glitches in a gravitational wave detector

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