Postgraduate taught 

Astrophysics MSc

Gravitational Wave Detection PHYS5006

  • Academic Session: 2018-19
  • School: School of Physics and Astronomy
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the physics of gravitational wave detection. Starting from the fundamentals of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, the course will explore: the basic operating principles of gravitational wave detectors; astrophysical sources of gravitational waves; current topics in advanced detector design; future plans for ground-based and space-based detectors and gravitational wave data analysis techniques.


To be determined

Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses





1) Continuous assessement via a dissertation (approx 2000 words) on a current topic in gravitational wave research  (50%)

2) A 20-minute oral examination at the end of the course (50%)

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No

Reassessment is not normally allowed, for practical reasons, for any assessed components of coursework.

Course Aims

To provide students with an opportunity to develop knowledge and understanding of the key principles and applications of Gravitational Wave physics, and their relevance to current developments in the field of Gravitational Wave Detection, at a level appropriate for a professional (astro-)physicist.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

At the end of the course students should be able to:


1) explain qualitatively, from the General Theory of Relativity, how metric perturbations in free space take the form of a wave equation, propagating at the speed of light and describe how gravitational waves are produced by the asymmetrical acceleration of matter

2) describe the physical principles underlying detectors of gravitational waves with particular emphasis on detectors using laser interferometry

3) outline the most promising astrophysical sources for the production of significant levels of gravitational radiation, and estimate the amplitude of this radiation from a compact binary system

4) outline the main noise sources which limit the performance of interferometric gravitational wave detectors and discuss how such sources can be mitigated, with particular reference to seismic noise, thermal noise and photo-electron shot noise

5) describe the plans for building more sensitive detectors on the ground and in space, providing quantitative details of such detectors, and describe how the signals from various astrophysical sources may be extracted from the data collected by these detectors.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits