April 6, 2020

Astro-Vid Of the Week: A New Look at LIGO

The entrance to LIGO Livingston. (Photo by Author)

An exciting astronomical observatory is finally be getting the recognition it deserves.

We’ve written about the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) before. LIGO consists of a pair of L-shaped arrays, one based in Hanford Washington and one in Livingston Louisiana which we toured in 2010.  LIGO first went online in 2002, and its mission is to detect gravity waves generated by such exotic events as binary pulsar or black hole mergers.

And the really exciting news is that LIGO is getting a documentary film in 2014 entitled LIGO: A Passion for Understanding. Primary footage was acquired in late 2013, and the trailer is now available online:

LIGO, A Passion for Understanding – Trailer from Kai Staats on Vimeo.

LIGO has yet to detect gravity waves, but all that could change soon when Advanced LIGO (AdLIGO) goes online later this year. With ten times greater sensitivity, AdLIGO could open our view to the universe and usher in a new era of gravitational wave astronomy. This could include a future where even more powerful detectors consisting of free flying laser arrays such as the European Space Agency’s (ESA) proposed Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission probe the secrets of the universe.

And already, the lack of detection of gravity waves has placed some key constraints on such events as the birth of the universe itself. LIGO requires two geographically separate detectors to rule out local interference. Each consisting of a pair of two kilometre long arms in a Fabry-Pérot configuration, LIGO researchers periodically inject test signals into the data to test sensitivity.

Will the first direct detection of gravity waves happen in 2014? Be sure to follow the documentary for a fascinating look at the LIGO project.

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