Universiteit Leiden

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4.9 milion euros for unraveling the mysteries of black holes

The Dutch Black Holes Consortium receives 4.9 million euros from NWO for unravelling the mysteries of black holes and other mysteries of the universe. The Astronomy and Society group at Leiden Observatory is affiliated to use the leading research to introduce people of all ages and background, and children in particular, to science. NWO announced the awards within the framework of the Dutch National Research Agenda (NWA) on 25 November.

The Dutch Black Hole Consortium combines researchers from disciplines ranging from theoretical physics, astronomy, geology, to technicians working on the next generation of gravity detectors, with teacher training courses at colleges, museums, and researchers in science communication.

Top facilities

The consortium is preparing itself for the research of the future by helping to develop the latest and most sensitive measuring instruments, such as the Einstein Telescope. In this project, geologists will, for example, assist in the analysis of soil research in South Limburg by the Province of Limburg, Shell TNO and Innoseis. Astronomers and physicists will join forces to test current theoretical insights about black holes. They do this using data from top research facilities for black hole research, such as the Virgo and LIGO gravity wave detectors and the Event Horizon Telescope. They will also further develop the latest ideas about black holes and the nature of gravity.

Educational programme

At the same time, education experts translate the latest findings into a multifaceted educational programme. They develop and test new teaching materials, train primary and secondary school teachers, and collaborate with various educational partners such as natuurkunde.nl. The consortium takes the project to the rest of society through exhibitions in Museum Boerhaave and the discovery centre Continium. The consortium is also setting up a Citizen Science project using the BlackGEM and Las Cumbres Observatory telescopes, which are currently under construction, to search for flashes of light that occur during gravitational wave events.

Classrooms around the Netherlands

Pedro Russo (education co-lead), Leiden Observatory / Department Science Communication & Society, adds:  'It is essential that cutting edge research is present in formal and informal education. The NWA project, Zwarte Gaten Consortium, will bring the exciting aspects of black holes research into classrooms around the Netherlands.'

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