Last Tuesday, the NSF (National Science Foundation) has assisted in dedicating the Advanced LIGO (Laser Gravitational Wave Observatories) at Richland’s LIGO Hanford facility. This move might result in prominent changes in the way astronomy is regulated.
The NSF-funded facilities have been designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and California Institute of Technology. The two universities are operating the facilities to observe and record gravitational waves; this is the first time ever in history that a study team is attempting anything like this. The findings of the study will help in gathering more information about the elements responsible for generating the waves; we will get to learn more about things such as colliding black holes, supernovae etc.
The Advanced LIGO project is basically a part of a major upgrade, which according to experts will improve the sensitivity of the instruments of LIGO significantly. This improvement, in turn, will increase the number of astrophysical candidates present in the gravitational wave signals by thousand times.
After Tuesday’s dedication, the Advanced LIGO will have to go through commissioning for confirming that the instruments in it are ready for beginning the quest for gravitational waves by this autumn.
American astrophysicist France Anne-Dominic Cordova, the director of NSF, said that Advanced LIGO has a key role to play in the process of achieving the goal of understanding the amazing mysteries of the universe better. She further said that this project is providing the scientists with an extremely sophisticated instrument for spotting gravitational waves.
According to Cordova, she and her team at the NSF believe that these gravitational waves will be revealing the truth about their origins and provide information about the nature of gravity; none of the conventional astronomical tools in use right now will be able to come up with such facts.
For those who don’t know: the concept of LIGO first surfaced during the 1980s. Scientists of that era also wanted to use LIGO for detecting gravitational waves.
The modern LIGO contains a couple of 4km long L-shaped “interferometers”. One of these interferometers is located in the Hanford facility and the other one is at the facility in Livingston, LA. Inside these interferometers, there are vacuum tubes; each of these vacuum tubes carries a laser beam split into two halves.