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What are GWs?

Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of space and time produced by violent events in the distant universe, for example by the collision of two black holes or by the cores of supernova explosions. Gravitational waves are emitted by accelerating masses much as electromagnetic waves are produced by accelerating charges. These ripples in the space-time fabric travel to Earth, bringing with them information about their violent origins and about the nature of gravity.

Albert Einstein predicted the existence of these gravitational waves in 1916 in his general theory of relativity, but only since the 1990s has technology become powerful enough to permit detecting them and harnessing them for science. Although they have not yet been detected directly, the influence of gravitational waves on a binary pulsar (two neutron stars orbiting each other) has been measured accurately and is in good agreement with the predictions. Scientists therefore have great confidence that gravitational waves exist. Joseph Taylor and Russel Hulse were awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery of this binary pulsar.

What is LIGO?

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is a facility dedicated to the detection of cosmic gravitational waves and the harnessing of these waves for scientific research. It consists of two widely separated installations within the United States, operated in unison as a single observatory.

The initial LIGO interferometers were designed and constructed by a team of scientists from the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. LIGO is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Construction of the facilities was completed in 1999. The inaugural science run of LIGO took place in 2004.

What is LSC?

The LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) is a self-governing collaboration seeking to detect gravitational waves, use them to explore the fundamental physics of gravity, and develop gravitational wave observations as a tool of astronomical discovery. The LSC works toward this goal through research on, and development of techniques for, gravitational wave detection; and the development, commissioning and exploitation of gravitational wave detectors.

Founded in 1997, the LSC is currently made up over 600 members from over 50 institutions and 11 countries. The LSC carries out the science of the LIGO Observatories, located in Hanford, WA and Livingston, LA as well as that of the GEO600 detector in Hannover, Germany. Our collaboration is organized around three general areas of research: analysis of LIGO and GEO data searching for gravitational wave emissions from astrophysical sources, detector characterization, and instrument science.

Gravitational Waves
Graphic courtesy / LIGO
Gravitational Waves

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