Thursday, February 11, 2016

Advanced LIGO Press Briefing

At 10h00AM EST, the National Science Foundation (wikipedia) will present findings from the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (wikipedia) or Advanced LIGO.

Gravitational waves were predicted by Einstein as a mathematical phenomena. However, their true presence in our universe has continued to be elusive, primarily due to the difficulty in detecting the very long and subtle propagating ripples in space-time which are prone to being overwhelmed by noise from other sources. Being able to detect gravitational waves opens the door to a lot of new possible discoveries in understanding the universe.

At LIGO, two 4-kilometer tunnels come together to form an L. In these two tunnels is a laser that shines down both 4-kilometer pathways, striking a mirror at the end of each tunnel and bounces back to a detector. The detector very accurately measures the time and distortion from the initialization of the laser beam to the return travel into the sensor. The nature of gravitational waves suggests that they will cause a 'ripple' through space-time, which would potentially stretch and compress matter as it propagates through the medium. With this being the nature of gravitational waves, LIGO provides detection through measuring any deviations in the direction of the laser between the two tunnels and the time it took for the laser to return to the sensor, as a gravitational wave would potentially disturb the pathway and travel time of the laser ever-so-slightly.

Last year the observatory was upgraded to Advanced LIGO, installing much more sensitive detectors. Full sensitivity and calibration of these detrectors isn't expected until 2019. However, last week it was announced there would be a press briefing today over a possible detection.

LIGO February 11, 2016 Press Conference

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