November: LIGO Resumes Search for Gravitational Waves
30 November 2016 -- After a series of upgrades, the twin detectors of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, have turned back on and resumed their search for ripples in the fabric of space and time known as gravitational waves. LIGO transitioned from engineering test runs to science observations at 8 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on November 30.
On February 11, 2016, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) and the Virgo Collaboration announced that LIGO had made the first-ever direct observation of gravitational waves. The waves were generated by a tremendously powerful collision of two black holes 1.3 billion light-years away and were recorded by both of LIGO's detectors -- one in Hanford, Washington, and the other in Livingston, Louisiana. A second gravitational-wave detection by LIGO was announced on June 15, 2016, also from merging black holes.
The initial detections were made during LIGO's first run after undergoing major technical upgrades in a program called Advanced LIGO. That run lasted from September 2015 to January 2016. Since then, engineers and scientists have been evaluating LIGO's performance and making improvements to its lasers, electronics, and optics -- resulting in an overall increase in LIGO's sensitivity.
"For our first run, we made two confirmed detections of black-hole mergers in four months," says Caltech's Dave Reitze, executive director of the LIGO Laboratory, which operates the LIGO observatories. "With our improved sensitivity, and a longer observing period, we will likely observe even more black-hole mergers in the coming run and further enhance our knowledge of black-hole dynamics. We are only just now, thanks to LIGO, learning about how often events like these occur."
The Livingston detector now has about a 25 percent greater sensitivity -- or range for detecting gravitational waves from binary black holes -- than during the first observing run. That means it can see black-hole mergers at further distances than before, and therefore should see more mergers than before. The sensitivity for the Hanford detector is similar to that of the first observing run.
"The Livingston detector has improved sensitivity for lower gravitational-wave frequencies, below about 100 hertz, primarily as the result of reducing the level of scattered light, which can be a pernicious source of noise in the interferometers," says Peter Fritschel, the associate director for LIGO at MIT and LIGO's chief detector scientist. "This is important for detecting massive systems like the merger of two black holes. We are confident that we'll see more black-hole mergers."
"LIGO Hanford scientists and engineers have successfully increased the power into the interferometer, and improved the stability of the detector," says Caltech's Mike Landry, the head of LIGO Hanford Observatory. "Significant progress has been made for the future utilization of still higher power, which will ultimately lead to improved sensitivity in future runs. Furthermore, with the addition of specialized sensors called balance-beam tilt meters in the corner and end stations, the detector is now more stable against wind and low-frequency seismic motion, thereby increasing the amount of time the detector can be in observing mode."
The LIGO team will continue to improve the observatories' sensitivities over the coming years, with increases planned for each successive observing run. As more black-hole mergers are detected by LIGO, scientists will start to get their first real understanding of black-hole pairs in the universe -- including their population numbers, masses, and spin rates. LIGO may also detect the merger of neutron stars -- the dense cores of exploded stars. Knowledge of both black-hole and neutron-star mergers will improve our understanding of stellar evolution and death.
"LIGO's scientific and operational staff have been working hard for the past year and are enthusiastic to restart round-the-clock observations. We are as curious as the rest of the world about what nature will send our way this year," says LIGO Livingston Observatory head Joe Giaime of Caltech and Louisiana State University.
Caltech and MIT conceived of, built, and operate the LIGO Observatories, with funding provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Advanced LIGO detector was constructed by Caltech and MIT with funding from NSF and contributions from LSC institutions worldwide, including the Max Planck Society in Germany, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) in the U.K., and the Australian Research Council, among many others.
LIGO research is carried out by the international LIGO Scientific Collaboration (which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy) and the Virgo Collaboration in Europe.
More information about LIGO and its partners can be found at www.ligo.caltech.edu and www.ligo.org.
LIGO Laboratory Website
LIGO Scientific Collaboration Website
October: Gravity Spy, A Crowdsourcing Tool for Finding Glitches in LIGO Data, Is Launched
12 October 2016 -- Gravity Spy, a crowdsourcing tool for finding and analyzing glitches in LIGO data, has been publicly launched today. Glitches, or noise, in the LIGO data are a byproduct of very high sensitivity of LIGO instruments. The presence of these non-gravitational-wave disturbances in the data can obscure or mimic true gravitational-wave signals. The origin of some glitches is well-understood, while others remain a mystery. The rates at which the glitches occur vary depending on what's going on with the detectors and their environments. At their highest rates, glitches happen at 3x/sec. At such rates and with more than 2 dozen types of glitches observed so far, it takes an enourmous amount of data processing to sort out and classify them. To facilitate this process, the Gravity Spy tool is crowdsourcing the glitch identification to citizen scientists. With each new classification, LIGO will move closer and closer to discovering new gravitational-wave signals by identifying possible noise patterns in its data and filtering them out. Read more, and sign up, at the Gravity Spy website.
The Gravity Spy tool is a result of collaborative efforts of several LSC groups. The Gravity Spy team consists of LIGO researchers at the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astronomy (CIERA) at Northwestern University, LIGO researchers at Caltech, machine learning researchers at Northwestern University, crowd-sourced science researchers at Syracuse University, and Zooniverse web developers.
September: LIGO Celebrates 1st Anniversary of Gravitational Wave Detection
14 September 2016 -- LIGO celebrates the 1st anniversary of its gravitational-wave detection. Read this article about how this historic discovery was made, and about its significance for the future of gravitational-wave astronomy, at the LIGO Lab website.
September: The Advanced LIGO Engineering Team Wins the OSA's
Paul F. Forman Team Engineering Excellence Award of 2016
The Advanced LIGO Engineering Team has been awarded the Paul F. Forman Team Engineering Excellence Award from the Optical Society. This award recognizes technical achievements such as product engineering, process, software and patent development, as well as contributions to society such as engineering education, publication and management, and furthering public appreciation of optical engineering. In addition to members of the LIGO Laboratory at all 4 locations, the team includes individuals from Albert Einstein Institute and Laser Zentrum Hannover, Glasgow University, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Stanford University, and University of Florida. (See the full list of Advanced LIGO awardees.)The award will be presented at the Frontiers in Optics, the 100th OSA meeting that will take place in October 2016, followed by an article in Optics & Photonics News on the winners. LIGO Chief Engineer Dennis Coyne and LIGO Senior Optical Engineer GariLynn Billingsley will collect the award on behalf of the Advanced LIGO team. Congratulations to all the team members!
September: LSC Congratulates the LISA Pathfinder Team on the Satellite Mission Success
6 September 2016 -- The LIGO Scientific Collaboration would like to congratulate the LISA Pathfinder team on the fantastic success of their space satellite mission. This technology test mission has demonstrated acceleration noise at mHz frequencies which is better than required for the full LISA mission, and interferometric readout noise which far better than required. The Pathfinder triumph shows that LISA technology is sound, and paves the way towards multi-wavelength gravitational wave astronomy, as advocated in the recent US National Academy of Science "Review of Progress Toward the Decadal Survey Vision in New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics". LISA, together with LIGO, its partners, and future ground-based detectors, will make it possible to "listen" to the universe over a frequency band that is more than 30 octaves wide. We can hardly wait to discover this unknown world!
June: Gravitational Waves Detected from Second Pair of Colliding Black Holes
15 June 2016 -- The LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo collaboration identify a second gravitational wave event in the data from Advanced LIGO detectors. On December 26, 2015 at 03:38:53 UTC, scientists observed gravitational waves - ripples in the fabric of spacetime - for the second time. The gravitational waves were detected by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational - Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA. Read the full Press Release. Read more about the 2nd detections at this website and at the LIGO Lab website.
June: LIGO Founders Are the Winners of the 2016 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics
2 June 2016 -- Three founders of LIGO are the recipients of the prestigious Kavli Prize in Astrophysics. The Kavli Foundation announced that Ronald W.P. Drever (Caltech), Kip S. Thorne (Caltech) and Rainer Weiss (MIT) are the 2016 awardees of the $1 million prize. The prize, which is awarded every 2 years, recognizes "scientists for their seminal advances in three research areas," including Astrophysics, Kavli Prize website states. The three founders of LIGO are being honored for "their ingenuity, inspiration, intellectual leadership and tenacity [which] were the driving force behind [the] epic discovery" of gravitationa waves, the prize citation reads.
Update 6 September 2016: The Kavli Prize was presented to (below, l-r) Ian Drever (representing his brother Ronald); Rainer Weiss; and Kip S. Thorne by Crown Prince of Norway Haakon at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway:
Image credit: The Kavli Prize
May: LIGO founders receive The Shaw Prize in Astronomy
31 May 2016 -- The three researchers who founded LIGO have been awarded the 2016 Shaw Prize in Astronomy, The Shaw Foundation announced. Ronald W.P. Drever (Caltech), Kip S. Thorne (Caltech) and Rainer Weiss (MIT) are the recipients of the $1.2 million prize, awarded annually. According to the prize citattion, the award recognizes their collective work on "conceiving and designing the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), whose recent direct detection of gravitational waves opens a new window in astronomy, with the first remarkable discovery being the merger of a pair of stellar mass black holes."
May: LSC Statement on Appropriate Content for Scientific Presentations
16 May 2016 -- Recently a senior member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration included a highly inappropriate image as the introductory slide for a talk at an international conference. The occasion was an after-dinner speech and and the speaker's intent was to be humorous, but he chose an image that was inherently very offensive. The speaker deeply regrets the error in judgment. We in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) diversity committee look to this case to find lessons learned to prevent such occurrences in the future.
For the LSC, there are policies in place to prevent harassment and or inappropriate behavior. There is a requirement for a slide review to be performed before a talk, which would have caught the bad slide. The offensive slide contained a LIGO document number and a LIGO Laboratory affiliation implying that the LIGO Lab and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration had endorsed its use. However, this talk was not submitted for the review, which would have caught the bad slide.
The case offers an important lesson for scientists to take personal responsibility for appropriate content. Slides should always be reviewed by the speaker for inappropriate content. Any questionable slide should be discussed with colleagues to see if it is offensive. Even better, a preview with colleagues can be done of the full talk. Reviews and practice talks greatly improve talk quality, in addition to screening inappropriate content.
We will work vigorously to maintain an inclusive environment in the LSC that is free of harassment or offensive actions. Quoting from the LSC Diversity Statement: "As a collaboration, we will strive to create a professional climate that encourages inclusion and that respects and values diversity."
May: LIGO Members Awarded The 2016 Gruber Prize in Cosmology
4 May 2016 -- Three LIGO members have been awarded The 2016 Gruber Prize in Cosmolgy, the Gruber Foundation announced. Ronald W.P. Drever (Caltech), Kip S. Thorne (Caltech), and Rainer Weiss (MIT) have been selected as the recipients of the annual prize in recognition of their contribution to the discovery of gravitational waves. The prize consists of a gold medal and a $500,000 cash prize to be shared between the recipients.
May: LIGO Members Awarded Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics
2 May 2016 -- Members of the LIGO and Virgo collaborations were awarded a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, the Prize Selection Committee announced. The award recognizes "the scientists and engineers contributing to the momentuous detection of gravitational waves", which was announced by LIGO on Feb 11, 2016, stated the announcement by the Selection Committee. The Special Breakthrough Prize can be awarded at any time in recognition of an exceptional scientific achievement. The $3 million prize will be shared as follows: the three LIGO founders -- Ronald W.P. Drever (Caltech); Kip S. Thorne (Caltech); and Rainer Weiss (MIT) -- will share $1 million; and the 1012 contributing scientists, engineers, and staff will share $2 million.
March: NSF Signs a LIGO-India MoU
31 March 2016 -- The US and India have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for establishing an advanced gravitational-wave detector in India. France A. Córdova, Director of the National Science Foundation, and representatives of India's Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Science and Technology, signed the MoU in the presence of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. From the NSF website: "Today, National Science Foundation (NSF) Director France A. Córdova signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to lead the way for establishing an advanced gravitational-wave detector in India. The MOU was also signed by representatives from India's Department of Atomic Energy and India's Department of Science and Technology." Read the NSF Press Release.
February: LIGO Members Testify Before US Congress on the Discovery
24 February 2016 -- As a follow-up to the announcement of LIGO's first observation of gravitational waves, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has asked LIGO Scientific Collaboration members to testify on the discovery, its meaning for science and society, and what the future may hold. LSC members that testified at the Full House Committee Hearing were the LIGO Lab Executive Director David Reitze, the LSC Spokesperson Gabriela Gonzalez, and the LIGO MIT Director David Shoemaker. Details at house.gov.
February: LIGO-India Approved by India's Union Cabinet
17 February 2016 -- The LIGO-India project has been formally approved by the Union Cabinet. The formal approval will clear the path for funding of the LIGO-India project, as well as for other activities that are critical for the start of building a gravitational-wave detector in India.
Read an article in The Hindu.
February: White House Congratulates the LIGO Team
On February 11, President Obama tweeted his congratulations to the LIGO team:
On Feb 12, 2016, John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, posted a statement on the White House blog with congratulations to the LIGO team.
February: Gravitational Waves Detected 100 Years After Einstein's Prediction
11 February 2016 -- LIGO Opens New Window on the Universe with Observation of Gravitational Waves from Colliding Black Holes
For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.
Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.
The gravitational waves were detected on September 14, 2015 at 5:51 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (9:51 a.m. UTC) by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA. The LIGO Observatories are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and were conceived, built, and are operated by Caltech and MIT. The discovery, accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters, was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (which includes the GEO600 Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy) and the Virgo Collaboration using data from the two LIGO detectors.
February: Media Advisory
8 February 2016 -- 100 years after Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves, the National Science Foundation gathers scientists from Caltech, MIT and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration to update the scientific community on efforts to detect them.
(Washington, DC) -- Journalists are invited to join the National Science Foundation as it brings together the scientists from Caltech, MIT and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) this Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at the National Press Club for a status report on the effort to detect gravitational waves - or ripples in the fabric of spacetime - using the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO).
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first publication of Albert Einstein's prediction of the existence of gravitational waves. With interest in this topic piqued by the centennial, the group will discuss their ongoing efforts to observe gravitational waves.
LIGO, a system of two identical detectors carefully constructed to detect incredibly tiny vibrations from passing gravitational waves, was conceived and built by MIT and Caltech researchers, funded by the National Science Foundation, with significant contributions from other U.S. and international partners. The twin detectors are located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. Research and analysis of data from the detectors is carried out by a global group of scientists, including the LSC, which includes the GEO600 Collaboration, and the VIRGO Collaboration.
WHEN: Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, 10:30 AM US EST
WHERE: The National Press Club, Holeman Lounge, 529 14th Street NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC 20045
MEDIA RSVP: Seating is extremely limited, but an overflow room will be available where reporters can still ask questions and have access to additional subject matters to interview after the press conference. Only the first 50 journalists to arrive will be seated in the main room. All interested journalists should RSVP to any of the media contacts listed below to ensure press credentials are prepared ahead of time. A mult box will be available for broadcast media, and the Press Club is equipped with wireless access.
LIVE WEBCAST: For press not based in the Washington, D.C. area, this event will be simulcast live online, and we will try to answer some questions submitted remotely. For details about how to participate remotely, please contact anyone listed below.
Caltech/Tom Waldman, (626) 395-5832 or (818) 274-2729 [m]; firstname.lastname@example.org
MIT/Kimberly Allen, (617) 253-2702 or (617) 852-6094 [m]; email@example.com
NSF/Ivy Kupec, (703) 292-8796 or (703) 225-8216 [m]; firstname.lastname@example.org
January: "LSC Statement on Harassment"
16 January 2016 -- There have been recent reports of harassment involving LIGO Scientific Collaboration members, specifically involving a Caltech faculty member and a student. That faculty member is no longer a member of the LSC. As a collaboration, we will not tolerate harassment and strive to provide a supportive environment for all members of our collaboration. We practice the principles enshrined in the LSC Diversity Statement, with guidelines in https://dcc.ligo.org/LIGO-M1400285/public:
"As members of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, we recognize the importance of diversity to enrich our research and scholarship. We pledge to provide a welcoming, inclusive environment to talented individuals regardless of characteristics such as, but not limited to, physical ability, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, or personal religious practices, and to support the professional growth of all collaboration members.
We also pledge to work to increase the numbers of women and under-represented minorities that actively participate in the LSC, to pursue recruitment, mentoring, retention and promotion of women and under-represented minority scientists and engineers and to maximize their contribution to excellence in our research. As a collaboration, we will strive to create a professional climate that encourages inclusion and that respects and values diversity."
January: 1st Observing Run of LIGO's Advanced Detectors Ends
12 January 2016 -- LIGO's first Observing Run, or O1, has ended today. The run started on September 18, 2015. During these 4 months, the detectors at Hanford and Livingston have been collecting data at a sensitivity that's not yet at its peak but nevertheless is about 4 times higher than before the Advanced LIGO upgrade. LIGO plans to have a number of subsequent observing runs, while continuing to further improve the sensitivity of its instruments before each run. Upgrades will resume between now and the beginning of the second observing run (O2), scheduled to start later this year and to last about 6 months. The O2 will be followed by another round of upgrades and yet another observing run. A partner European project, Advanced Virgo, which is also undergoing an upgrade, is scheduled to join Advanced LIGO in a joint observing run later this year. Both instruments are planned to be observing at full sensitivity by 2021. Read more.
November: "Gravitational Waves" Hangout
20 November 2015 -- Watch LSC's Joey Shapiro Key (Univ of Texas Rio Grande Valley) and Shane Larson (Northwestern) discuss the science and technology behind gravitational waves and the instruments used to observe them. This Google hangout was organized by the American Astronomical Society (event's announcement page on the AAS website). Watch on Youtube or Google+ to find out how and why we try to detect gravitational waves.
September: LIGO Featured in BBC's Radio Show
26 September 2015 -- LIGO was profiled in the BBC World Services Radio show "A New Ear on the Universe," on September 26, 2015. Download podcast or visit the The Documentary website.
September: 1st Observing Run of LIGO's Advanced Detectors begins
18 September 2015 -- The first Observing Run of Advanced LIGO, called O1, started on September 18, 2015. During the run, the LIGO detectors in Hanford and Livingston will be simultaneously collecting data. The run is planned to last three months. It will provide LIGO researchers with long-awaited new data to continue their quest to directly detect cosmic gravitational waves. Already three times more sensitive than initial LIGO, the Advanced LIGO detectors will be fine-tuned in the next months to increase the sensitivity 10 times compared with the initial LIGO. This will allow the scientists to detect gravitational waves generated as far away as several hundred millions of light years. Read more about LIGO's first Observing Run on the LIGO Lab website.
June: LIGO and LSC Release S6 Data
10 June 2015 -- The LIGO Laboratory and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) are pleased to announce the public release of strain data taken by the project's two gravitational wave detectors during LIGO's sixth science run (S6) that occurred from July 2009 through October 2010. This release follows the release of the LIGO S5 data in August 2014.
LIGO's S6 observing run was conducted in coordination with the Virgo detector's Science Runs 2 and 3 (VSR2, VSR3), and with observations by the SWIFT space telescope and numerous ground-based wide-field optical telescopes. Two LIGO detectors, H1 at LIGO Hanford Observatory (LHO) and L1 at LIGO Livingston Observatory (LLO), had been upgraded to "Enhanced LIGO" for S6; the principal upgrades included higher-power lasers, a new readout scheme, and an output mode cleaner mounted on active seismic isolation. The third LIGO detector, H2 at LHO, was retired in 2009 in preparation for its upgrade in the Advanced LIGO program.
The LIGO data release comes with detailed metadata, tutorials, tools and software that will help public users perform effective analyses. The release will promote broad participation in the advancement of gravitational wave physics and astrophysics from professional and amateur scientists, graduate students, undergraduates and secondary students. Participants are invited to help improve the quality of LIGO's scientific results, including the verification of results already produced by the LSC.
The LSC has analyzed LIGO's S6 data; no gravitational wave candidate signals were found in the LSC searches. LIGO will release data from the upgraded Advanced LIGO detectors that will begin operating in 2015. LIGO expects that such releases could include gravitational wave signals. Should regular gravitational wave detections begin to occur, public participation in LIGO data analysis will add an exciting dimension to gravitational wave astronomy. Numerical relativists, relativity theorists, astrophysicists and others will use LIGO data to better understand the dynamics of strongly curved spacetime along with the origins and properties of gravitational wave sources.
LIGO anticipates that data analysis in the LSC will improve as a result of this effort to make releases that the broader community can easily understand and use. The international network of gravitational wave observatories continues to move toward a model of shared data analysis; the public release program will facilitate the growth of this global capability.
Please visit the LIGO Open Science Center (LOSC) website for access to data downloads and tutorial materials. This site provides resources that will help participants understand LIGO data and gravitational wave science. LIGO encourages users to register for the LOSC email list. List subscribers will stay informed of updates and future releases, and can send questions and comments to the LOSC development team.
The LIGO Laboratory is operated by Caltech and MIT for the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). The LIGO Open Science Center is supported by NSF awards 1210172 and 0757058.
Read more: LIGO Open Science Center (LOSC)
May: Dedication of Advanced LIGO
May 19, 2015 -- The Advanced LIGO Project, a major upgrade that will increase the sensitivity of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatories instruments by a factor of 10 and provide a 1,000-fold increase in the number of astrophysical candidates for gravitational wave signals, was officially dedicated today in a ceremony held at the LIGO Hanford facility in Richland, Washington. Read more at Caltech News.
April: What Comes Next to LIGO?
April 1, 2015 -- "What comes next for LIGO? Planning for the post-detection era in gravitational-wave detectors and astrophysics" workshop, Silver Spring, Maryland, May 7-8 2015. The detection of LIGO's first gravitational wave will be a transformational event, opening new avenues for astrophysical exploration, opportunities to build more powerful detectors directed at known source populations and data analysis enhancements informed by direct detection. Participants in this workshop will discuss how the first few detections might influence which paths offer the best opportunities, and how the community can be prepared with appropriate plans, including international networks and outreach of gravitational wave science to the broad scientific community. We invite gravitational wave scientists, astronomers, and astrophysicists to participate in this discussion. Focus panels will summarize discussions and write up conclusions after the meeting.
January: "LIGO Generations" documentary released
January 30, 2015 -- On January 30, 2015 a new documentary about LIGO titled "LIGO Generations" was released on Space.com. The 25-min film by Kai Staats shows how scientists bridge the gap between the special language of astrophysics and bright young scientists.
January: Latest BICEP2/Keck Array/Planck Results on
Primordial Gravitational Waves
January 30, 2015 -- A new joint analysis of BICEP2/Keck Array and Planck data fits the CMBR polarization measurements carried out by these experiments to an improved model of galactic dust and a possible contribution from primordial gravitational waves generated by inflation. This new analysis yields a new upper limit for the contribution from primordial gravitational waves but no longer disfavours a zero contribution at high statistical significance. The authors conclude that to better constrain, or to definitively detect, primordial inflationary gravitational waves will therefore require additional data. Hence for the moment the search for primordial gravitational waves continues, although the authors note that many other experiments to measure CMBR polarization are currently underway.
August: LIGO Open Data Center (LOSC) Releases S5 Data
August 22, 2014 -- On August 22, 2014, the LIGO Laboratory and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) announced the public release of two years of data taken by the three LIGO gravitational-wave detectors the during its fifth science run, 2005-2007 (S5).
The LIGO data release comes with detailed metadata, tutorials, tools, and software to enable effective analysis. It will enable broad participation in the advancement of gravitational wave physics and astrophysics, from professional and amateur scientists, graduate students, undergraduates and secondary students. Participants learn about and help to improve the scientific results that come from this ambitious astronomical observatory, including the verification of results already established by the LSC.
The LIGO S5 data have been analyzed by the LSC, and no gravitational-wave candidate signals have been found. However, this is the first of many data releases, including data from the upcoming Advanced LIGO observations, where the gravitational-wave community expects to find such signals. Numerical relativists, relativity theorists, and astrophysicists will use LIGO observations to better understand the dynamics of strongly curved spacetime, and the origins and properties of gravitational wave sources.
The effort to release LIGO data in a form that is easily understood and used by the broader community will facilitate and improve the data analysis efforts of the LSC, and ease the transition towards shared data analysis with partner gravitational wave efforts in Italy, Japan, India, and elsewhere.
Please visit the LIGO Open Science Center (LOSC) website. The site contains many resources to help users understand gravitational-wave science and the LIGO data. Users are encouraged to sign up for the email list, to stay informed of updates and future data releases from this site, and to send questions and comments to the LOSC development team.
April: LIGO Starring in a New Documentary
April 15, 2014 -- On April 15, 2014, a documentary about LIGO, titled "LIGO, A Passion for Understanding" made its debut on Space.com. The 22-min movie by filmmaker Kai Staats explores LIGO science and technology and profiles its people.
March: LSC Congratulates BICEP2 Colleagues
March 18, 2014 -- On March 17, 2014, scientists at the BICEP2 Project announced that they have acquired the first direct evidence that gravitational waves rippled through our infant universe during an explosive period of growth called inflation. The BICEP2 Collaboration result, if confirmed, is a landmark discovery in cosmology, allowing us for the first time to peer back almost to the moment of the Big Bang through the observation of the imprint of primordial gravitational waves on the cosmic microwave background. The LIGO Scientific Collaboration congratulates our BICEP colleagues on their accomplishment and will further follow discoveries and implications of these observations with great interest.
This result highlights the unique role that gravitational wave observations will play in understanding the universe in the coming years, demonstrating the possibility to study the earliest time in the evolution of the Universe, and the physics of the correspondingly high energies, using gravitational waves. Direct measurements of the cosmological gravitational waves at a variety of frequencies will be necessary to fully understand the physics of inflation. Furthermore, when Advanced LIGO gravitational-wave detector comes online in the second half of this decade, we anticipate it will directly measure gravitational waves created by the most violent compact astrophysical sources in the universe --- colliding neutron stars and black holes as well as supernovae --- opening an entirely new window onto the universe through gravitational-wave astronomy.
January: LSC Spokesperson Gabriela Gonzalez recognized as
Woman Physicist of the Month by the American Physical Society
January 11, 2014 -- From the APS website: "Gabriela Gonzalez, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Louisiana State University, is currently serving her second term as the Spokesperson for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. In this position, she oversees the work of over 900 scientists from 86 institutions and 17 countries, representing the Collaboration professionally to the scientific community and to the public. In the years before being elected as LSC Spokesperson, Gonzalez led the LIGO working group on detector characterization (instrumentation) and the working group on seeking gravitational waves from compact binary coalescences (data analysis), and held countless scientific and administrative positions in the LSC. What isn't always as visible is the time and attention she invests in the people around her. Once you have come into her sphere of influence, she'll always have time for you and care for you as a whole person -- both as a physicist and a unique individual." Read more
August: LIGO at the Aspen Science Festival
August 11, 2013 -- The touring version of Astronomy's New Messengers takes to the road again to delight children and adults alike at the 2013 Aspen Science Festival Science Street Fair, a daylong event featuring a non-stop program of interactive exhibits, experiments, games, and shows held in Paepcke Park, Aspen, Colorado. Astronomy's New Messengers once more showcased LIGO's cool technology to observe the Universe not through light but through gravity. Gravitational waves - ripples of space-time - were theorized by Einstein almost a century ago. LIGO now pushes the frontiers of science and engineering to try and catch these waves for the first time, and explore the death throes of stars, black hole collisions, even the origin of the Universe in a way humans never have before. Read more...
Identification and follow-up of electromagnetic counterparts of gravitational wave candidate events
June 6, 2013 -- In anticipation of the beginning of data collection in 2015, LSC and Virgo are working on developing a program of accompanying electromagnetic observations. Read more about joining a proposed partnership in collaboration with the LVC.
March: Gabriela Gonzalez re-elected as the LSC Spokesperson
March 20, 2013 -- Gabriela Gonzalez, a professor of physics and astronomy at Louisiana State University, has been re-elected as the LSC Spokesperson.
February: The LSC adopts a Diversity Statement
February 8, 2013 -- The under-representation of women and minorities in science is a matter of concern that transcends national borders and affects all scientific institutions across the globe. On February 8, 2013, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) Council voted unanimously in favor of approving the following statement:
As members of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, we recognize the importance of diversity to enrich our research and scholarship. We pledge to provide a welcoming, inclusive environment to talented individuals regardless of characteristics such as, but not limited to, physical ability, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, or personal religious practices, and to support the professional growth of all collaboration members.
We also pledge to work to increase the numbers of women and under-represented minorities that actively participate in the LSC, to pursue recruitment, mentoring, retention and promotion of women and under-represented minority scientists and engineers and to maximize their contribution to excellence in our research. As a collaboration, we will strive to create a professional climate that encourages inclusion and that respects and values diversity.
This statement recognizes that the academic strength of the LSC is closely linked to its diversity and encourages all LSC members to sign on to this viewpoint.
LIGO Debuts Two New Information Resources
Feb 2012 -- To the general public, the dense technical nature of much scientific research can make the entire activity sometimes seem inscrutable. Scientists collaborate closely and often communicate in a shared language of acronyms, codes, abbreviations and insider lingo. They diagram strategies on classroom chalkboards and debate vehemently around beige conference tables. Much of their thinking is expressed in the symbolic notations of mathematics. All combined these can prove a high barrier to an understanding by non-professionals. As a result, the work of scientists might go unnoticed for years until such time as some stunning discovery is announced or a revolutionary technology is revealed.
This is unfortunate because the stepping stones on the path to a big discovery can be fascinating themselves. Often these "small victories" provide a better insight into the actual processes of scientific research than do the sudden headlines of a dramatic discovery announced.
The trailblazing work of LIGO comprises hundreds of scientists and dozens of premier institutions all working toward a common goal - the discovery and study of gravitational waves. All involved firmly believe that the Advanced LIGO detectors will capture this prize. But in the build up to that day, vital and significant science is underway around the clock.
To share news of these important advances with interested members of the public, LIGO has developed two new online resources to describe, as non-technically as possible, the progress our team members are making in two pivotal directions: science and technology.
First are the Science Summaries. LIGO now regularly publishes "outreach abstracts" of significant new research publications, which include the data in plots and tables.
Second is the LIGO Technology Development and Migration webpage. Here we describe real case histories in which technological innovations powered by LIGO research have traveled on to other areas of science and industry. Find out about the "Fast Chirp Transform," the "Holographic Quantum Geometry" and the "Diode Pumped Laser," among others.
September 2011: GEO Squeezing experiment a glowing success
11, 2011 -- Current state-of-the-art interferometric gravitational wave detectors seek to detect gravitational waves through observation of interference patterns produced by the combination of two coherent light sources. Their basic design is that of a kilometer-scale Michelson-type laser interferometer, where a laser beam in an ultra-high-vacuum system is first split in two perpendicular arms and then reflected back by suspended mirrors to produce interference. Gravitational waves are expected to change the relative lengths of the two arms according to well-defined sequence, yielding interference patterns at the detector output. Encoded in these light patterns is the information about the source and nature of the gravitational waves. A global network of interferometric gravitational wave observatory currently exists, comprising two LIGO observatories in the USA (not operational since Nov. 2010 due to upgrade activity), the Virgo project of the European Gravitational Observatory Observatory in Italy and the German-British detector GEO600 in Germany. Further observatories are being planned or proposed in Japan, Australia and Europe.
Light obeys the laws of quantum mechanics. Because of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, the quanta of light (photons) exhibit an intrinsic quantum indeterminacy. Quantum fluctuations of the laser light in gravitational wave interferometers then produce unwanted instrumental ''shot'' noise, even when the instrument output is measured with an ideal photo detector. Recent advances in the theory and applications of optical measurements have discovered that there exist some quantum states of light with very small noise. In particular, ''squeezed light'' states show a noise level which is even smaller than the minimum noise of incoherent light made of independent photons. The low noise of squeezed light makes it very attractive for a number of applications from optical communications to quantum cryptography and gravitational-wave detection. Squeezed light can be generated in nonlinear optical crystals and was first demonstrated in 1985. Since its first observation, squeezed light sources have constantly been improved but the generation of squeezing remained an unsolved problem at frequencies where gravitational wave detectors operate. The results presented here by the GEO600 collaboration show that squeezed light can be successfully integrated in current and future interferometric gravitational wave observatories, and become a key technology in making gravitational wave astronomy a reality.
August 2011: New LIGO Executive Director Named
August 24, 2011 -- David Reitze has been named executive director of LIGO. A professor of physics at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and a visiting associate at Caltech since 2007, Reitze will succeed the retiring Jay Marx. Marx, a senior research associate in physics at Caltech, served as executive director since 2006 and will continue to work on LIGO part-time. More about Dr Reitze's appointment
July 2011: LIGO partners with the 2012 US Science and Engineering Festival
The LSC exhibited at the Expo giving visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the work of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), science's cool technology to observe the Universe not through light but through gravity. Gravitational waves - ripples of space-time - were theorized by Einstein almost a century ago. LIGO now pushes the frontiers of science and engineering to try and catch these waves for the first time, and explore the death throes of stars, black hole collisions, even the origin of the Universe in a way humans never have before.
April 2011: Gabriela Gonzalez elected as new LSC Spokesperson
Gabriela Gonzalez of the Louisiana State University has been elected as the new Spokesperson of the LSC. Gonzalez, a professor of physics and astronomy at Louisiana State University, is a Fellow of the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation; the American Physical Society; and the Institute of Physics.
March 2011: "Blind Injection" stress-tests LIGO and Virgo's search form gravitational waves
The LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration completed an end-to-end system test of their detection capabilities at a recent joint collaboration meeting in Arcadia, CA. Analysis of data from LIGO and Virgo's most recent observation run revealed evidence of the elusive signal from a neutron star spiraling into a black hole. The collaboration knew that the "detection" could be a "blind injection" -- a fake signal added to the data without telling the analysts, to test the detector and analysis. Nonetheless, the collaboration proceeded under the assumption that the signal was real, and wrote and approved a scientific paper reporting the ground-breaking discovery. A few moments later, according to plan, it was revealed that the signal was indeed a blind injection.
While the scientists were disappointed that the discovery was not real, the success of the analysis was a compelling demonstration of the collaboration's readiness to detect gravitational waves. LIGO and Virgo scientists are looking forward to observations with the advanced detectors which are expected to contain many real signals from the distant reaches of the universe.
Read more about the blind injection
June: LSC at the World Science Festival
June 2-6, 2010 -- Astronomy's New Messengers, an interactive exhibit about LIGO and LSC, was on display at the 2010 World Science Festival in New York City. More about the exhibit.
December 2009: LIGO begins joint observing with SWIFT, TAROT, and QUEST
Dec 9, 2009 -- LIGO and Virgo began working with three telescopes - the NASA SWIFT satellite,
Telescopes Action Rapide pour les Objets Transitoires (TAROT),
and Project QUEST - to conduct searches for simultaneous gravitational wave and electromagnetic
emissions from astrophysical events such as supernovae and gamma-ray bursts.
The two LIGO interferometers and the Virgo interferometer analyze date to rapidly identify and triangulate possible gravitational wave candidates. The position is sent to Swift, TAROT and QUEST, which then rapidly point their telescopes toward the source location to perform follow-up X-ray observations (in the case of Swift) or optical follow-ups (for TAROT and QUEST). The observation of a gravitational wave signal together with an associated electromagnetic signal can provide a significant amount of information about the astrophysics of potential sources, for example, short hard gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) or galactic supernova. While gravitational waves have not yet been detected, the simultaneous observation of a strong gravitational wave signal together with an electromagnetic signal would provide compelling evidence for the first detection. These searches are a new way of doing gravitational wave astronomy and point the way toward the future in which gravitational wave observatories play an important role in future astronomical observations. In addition to Swift, TAROT, and QUEST, the LIGO Scientific and Virgo Collaborations are developing agreements with other wide field optical telescopes as well as with radio telescopes and neutrino detectors to search for correlated gravitational wave astrophysical phenomena.
The NASA Swift observatory is a low earth orbit satellite whose primary mission is to investigate gamma ray bursts. Télescopes á Action Rapide pour les Objets Transitoires (TAROT) operates wide-field telescopes in France and Chile and is managed by the Observatoire de Haute Provence, France. The QUEST project uses a 10 square degree camera on the ESO Schmidt telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, and is a collaboration between Yale University, Indiana University, and Berkeley.
November 2009: ROPP selects an LSC paper as one of its 2009 highlights Editorial Board of Reports on Progress in Physics selected "LIGO: The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory" to its list of 2009 highlights.
October 2009: NJP highlights a LIGO paper Editorial Board of New Journal of Physics selected "Observation of a kilogram-scale oscillator near its quantum ground state" as one of its highlights of 2009.
August 2009: Astronomy's Messengers comes to universities in Southeastern US
In keeping with LIGO's continuing mission to educate the public of its activities, "Astronomy's Messengers: listening to the universe with gravitational waves", a touring exhibit developed by LSC scientists in conjunction with Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership is traveling in the southeastern United States. More about the exhibit.
June 2009: LIGO Exhibit at the 2009 World Science Festival
June 2009: CQG picks LIGO-GEO600 paper among Journal's 2009 highlights At their annual meeting in June 2009, the Editorial Board of Classical and Quantum Gravity nominated a LIGO-GEO600 paper as a highlight of the journal's the journal's 2009 publications.