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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 Detected 100 Years After Einstein's Prediction
LIGO was originally proposed as a means of detecting these gravitational waves in the 1980s by Rainer Weiss, professor of physics, emeritus, from MIT; Kip Thorne, Caltech's Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, emeritus; and Ronald Drever, professor of physics, emeritus, also from Caltech.
LIGO, the most ambitious project ever funded by the National Science Foundation, consists of two L-shaped interferometers with four-kilometer-long arms; at their ends hang mirrors whose motions are measured to within one-thousandth the diameter of a proton. Managed jointly by Caltech and MIT, Initial LIGO became operational in 2001; the second-generation Advanced LIGO was dedicated on May 19, 2015. On September 14 at 2:51 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, both of the twin LIGO detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, nearly simultaneously detected the characteristic "chirp" of the black holes' fusion.
LIGO's SURF Students Look for the Perfect Wave (10/2015)
As the Advanced LIGO Project geared up, 27 undergraduates from around the world became full partners in one of the biggest, most complex physics experiment ever. Their contributions ranged from creating hardware and software for current use to helping design next-generation detectors.
Advanced LIGO to Begin Operations (09/2015)
The improved instruments will be able to look at the last minutes of the life of pairs of massive black holes as they spiral closer together, coalesce into one larger black hole, and then vibrate much like two soap bubbles becoming one.
Dedication of Advanced LIGO (05/2015)
The Advanced LIGO Project, a major upgrade to 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 in a ceremony held at the LIGO Hanford facility in Richland, Washington.
Building the World's Most Sensitive Detectors: A Conversation with Rana Adhikari (10/2013)
Caltech professor of physics Rana Adhikari has been on a singular quest for 15 years: to detect gravitational waves.
Physicists Discover New Way to Visualize Warped Space and Time (04/2011)
"We've found ways to visualize warped space-time like never before," says Kip Thorne, Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus at Caltech.