The quest to detect gravitational waves directly has seen great advances over the past five decades, with the earlier resonant “bar” detectors being surpassed in sensitivity by large laser interferometers in the last decade. The first generation of interferometric detectors proved the viability of the approach, progressively improving sensing and control techniques and running up against the fundamental limitations of their designs. Along the way, many searches for gravitational wave signals were carried out and published, but none achieved the milestone of detecting a clear gravitational-wave signal.
All of that is about to change. The lessons learned from the first full-scale interferometric detectors fed into the design of advanced detectors which are now being constructed and commissioned and will soon begin collecting data. Higher laser power, sophisticated mirror suspensions and numerous other improvements will extend the distance reach of the detectors by an order of magnitude and finally record the tiny gravitational-wave signals traversing Earth. This special issue examines the advanced techniques and detectors currently being assembled, tested and prepared. It initially includes articles about GEO600 and KAGRA; articles about Advanced Virgo and Advanced LIGO will be added to the online issue soon.
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