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LIGO

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aerial view of LIGO detector buildings in Louisiana

An aerial view of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detector in Livingston, Louisiana. LIGO has two detectors: one in Livingston and the other in Hanaford, Washington. LIGO is funded by NSF; Caltech and MIT conceived, built and operate the laboratories.
Image credit: LIGO Laboratory

Aerial view of the LIGO detector in Hanaford, Washington

A view of the LIGO detector in Hanford, Washington. LIGO research is carried out by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, a group of more than 1000 scientists from universities around the United States and in 14 other countries.
Image credit: LIGO Laboratory

Aerial view of the LIGO detector in Hanaford, Washington

The collision of two black holes -- an event detected for the first time ever by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO -- is seen in this still from a computer simulation. LIGO detected gravitational waves, or ripples in space and time, generated as the black holes merged. The simulation shows what the merger would look like if we could somehow get a closer look. Time has been slowed by a factor of 100. The stars appear warped due to the strong gravity of the black holes.
Image credit: Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project (http://www.black-holes.org)

Aerial view of the LIGO detector in Hanaford, Washington

These plots show the signals of gravitational waves detected by the twin LIGO observatories at Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. The signals came from two merging black holes, each about 30 times the mass of our sun, lying 1.3 billion light-years away. The top two plots show data received at Livingston and Hanford, along with the predicted shapes for the waveform. These predicted waveforms show what two merging black holes should look like according to the equations of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, along with the instrument's ever-present noise. Time is plotted on the X-axis and strain on the Y-axis. Strain represents the fractional amount by which distances are distorted. As the plots reveal, the LIGO data very closely match Einstein's predictions. The final plot compares data from both detectors. The Hanford data have been inverted for comparison, due to the differences in orientation of the detectors at the two sites. The data were also shifted to correct for the travel time of the gravitational-wave signals between Livingston and Hanford (the signal first reached Livingston, and then, traveling at the speed of light, reached Hanford seven thousandths of a second later). As the plot demonstrates, both detectors witnessed the same event, confirming the detection
Image credit: LIGO

Aerial view of the LIGO detector in Hanaford, Washington

Current operating facilities in the global network include the twin LIGO detectors -- in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana -- and GEO600 in Germany. The Virgo detector in Italy and the Kamioka Gravitational Wave Detector (KAGRA) in Japan are undergoing upgrades and are expected to begin operations in 2016 and 2018, respectively. A sixth observatory is being planned in India. Having more gravitational-wave observatories around the globe helps scientists pin down the locations and sources of gravitational waves coming from space.
Image credit: LIGO

Aerial view of the LIGO detector in Hanaford, Washington

The source of gravitational waves detected by the twin LIGO facilities in Louisiana and Washington is shown on this sky map of the southern hemisphere. Purple indicates a 90 percent confidence level in the location; yellow a 10 percent confidence level. Researchers located the source using data from both detectors. The gravitational waves arrived at the respective detectors 7 milliseconds apart. This time delay revealed a particular slice of sky, or ring, where the signal must have come from. Backdrop Milky Way image is courtesy Axel Mellinger.
Image Credit: LIGO/Axel Mellinger

Aerial view of the LIGO detector in Hanaford, Washington

A technician works on one of LIGO's optics. At each observatory, the 2 1/2-mile long L-shaped LIGO interferometer uses laser light split into two beams that travel back and forth down the arms. The beams are used to monitor the distance between mirrors precisely positioned at the ends of the arms. According to Einstein's theory, the distance between the mirrors will change when a gravitational wave passed by the detector.
Image credit: LIGO Laboratory

Aerial view of the LIGO detector in Hanaford, Washington

How our sun and Earth warp space and time, or spacetime, is represented here with a green grid. As Albert Einstein demonstrated in his theory of general relativity, the gravity of massive bodies warps the fabric of space and time -- and those bodies move along paths determined by this geometry. His theory also predicted the existence of gravitational waves, which are ripples in space and time. These waves, which move at the speed of light, are created when massive bodies accelerate through space and time.
Image credit: LIGO/T. Pyle

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