LIGO looks to the future after detecting second round of gravitational waves

Shane McGlaun - Jun 20, 2016, 5:30 am CDT
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LIGO looks to the future after detecting second round of gravitational waves

Back in September of 2015, physicists operating the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory or LIGO for short detected the first round of gravitational waves seemingly proving Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. Before scientists could prove that gravitational waves existed and the first discovery wasn’t a fluke, they needed to find a second round of the waves, which they did earlier this month. After proving that the first find wasn’t a fluke, the LIGO team is looking to the future.

Gravitational wave discovery will be more common as the LIGO is updated to be more and more sensitive and the range of signals it can detect expands. “By the end of the decade we’ll probably be able to detect at least one gravitational wave event per month,” Ken Strain, professor of physics at University of Glasgow involved in upgrading LIGO, told The Register.

Steel wires originally suspended the mirrors inside the LIGO and the interior of the instrument was an ultra-high vacuum. The problem was that there was thermal motion in the atoms of the steel wires introduced tiny amounts of motion into the mirror setup. The mirror suspension system was later updated with four wires made out of ultrapure fused silica glass worth half a million dollars each. Those wires are less susceptible to vibrations allowing the instrument to detect the smallest of gravitational wave vibrations.

LIGO is a sort of first step towards building future spacecraft that will go into space in search of gravitational waves. The Evolved Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (eLISA) spacecraft will be the first gravitational wave observatory in space. Scientists hope that once eLISA launches in 2034 it will help them to learn how black holes form and how galaxies evolve. “If we can trace back the origins and distances of supermassive black holes, we might get more information on how the universe is expanding. It will be a new way to understand dark matter and dark energy,” says Dr Francesco Shankar, a lecturer at the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Southampton in England.

SOURCE: The Register


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