Free Public Talk on the Discovery of Gravity Waves

Wed Nov 2
Smithwick Theatre
7 pm to 8:30 pm
Author Appearance, Literary, Spoken Word, Theater
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Dr. Lynn Cominsky of Sonoma State University will give a free, illustrated, non-technical talk on:
“Spacetime Symphony: Gravitational Waves from Merging Black Holes”

in the Smithwick Theater at Foothill College, in Los Altos.
The talk is part of the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, now in its 17th year.

One hundred years ago Albert Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity, which predicts the kinds of changes in the universe that produce gravitational waves -- which travel at the speed of light, but are much harder to detect than light waves. On September 14, 2015, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) received the first confirmed gravitational wave signals. The event that produced them was the merger of two distant and massive black holes that were in mutual orbit. A second confirmed detection (two different black holes getting together) occurred on December 26, 2015. LIGO's exciting discoveries provide direct proof of predictions made by Einstein and have launched the new field of astronomy. Prof. Cominsky will present an introduction to LIGO, to gravitational waves and how they were detected, and to black holes.

Lynn Cominsky is the Chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department at Sonoma State University (SSU), where she has been on the faculty for over thirty years. She is the founder and director of SSU’s Education and Public Outreach Group, which develops educational materials for NASA, NSF and the US Department of Education. Her research focused on black holes, the x-ray universe, and high-energy astronomy. More recently, she has been a leader in developing exciting educational materials to help inspire students to pursue scientific careers, training teachers nation-wide, and enhancing scientific literacy for the general public. Among her awards are the Wang Family Excellence Award for the California State University system and the Astronomy Education Award of the American Astronomical Society.

Foothill College is just off the El Monte Road exit from Freeway 280 in Los Altos. For directions and parking information, see:
For a campus map, see:

The lecture is co-sponsored by:
* The SETI Institute
* The Astronomical Society of the Pacific
* NASA Ames Research Center
* The Foothill College Astronomy Program.

We get large crowds for these talks, so we ask people to try to arrive a little bit early to find parking. The lecture is free, but there is a charge of $3 for parking on campus and exact change is appreciated.

Past lectures in the series can be found on YouTube at http://


  1. Smithwick Theatre
    Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos, CA