Advancing the Search for Gravitational Waves with Next-Generation Citizen Science

by Michael Zevin.


Michael Zevin is a third-year doctoral student in astrophysics at Northwestern University. He is a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, and in addition to citizen science and LIGO detector characterization his research focuses on utilizing gravitational-wave detections to learn about binary stellar evolution and the environments in which compact binaries form.

With the first observations of gravitational waves and the discovery of binary black hole systems, LIGO has unveiled a new domain of the universe to explore. Though the recent signals persisted in LIGO’s sensitive band for a second or less, these last words of the binary that were spewed into the cosmos provided an unprecedented test of general relativity and insight into the progenitor stars that subsequently formed into the colliding black holes. However, the hunt is far from over. With LIGO’s second observing run underway, we can look forward to many more gravitational-wave signals, and as is true with any new mechanism for studying the cosmos, we can also expect to find the unexpected.

The extreme sensitivity required to make such detections was acquired through decades of developing methods and machinery to isolate the sensitive components of LIGO from non-gravitational-wave disturbances. Nonetheless, as a noise-dominated experiment, LIGO is still susceptible to Continue reading

LIGO’s gravitational wave detection is Physics World 2016 Breakthrough of the Year

by Clifford M Will.

Physics World breakthrough of the year prize

The Physics World 2016 Breakthrough of the Year goes to the LIGO Scientific Collaboration for their revolutionary, first ever direct observations of gravitational waves.

Long awaited direct detection of Einstein’s gravitational-waves tops Physics World’s list of the 10 key breakthroughs in physics in 2016

It give me great pleasure to report that the LIGO Scientific Collaboration are to receive Physics World’s Breakthrough of the year award.  At the end of every year, the Physics World editorial team reveals what it believes to be the top 10 research breakthroughs for the past year and one of these is selected to be the Physics World Breakthrough of the year.

In recognition of this achievement, the Physics World team have created a short documentary movie with the assistance of members of the LIGO collaboration from Cardiff University.

The video features Samantha Usman, who recently wrote an excellent CQG+ entry about the discovery.
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Coating thermal noise research for LIGO-India

Maya Kinley-Hanlon — an undergraduate student in the Department of Physics at the American University in Washington, DC — tells us more about her group’s work on optical coatings for LIGO-India.

Maya Kinley-Hanlon is a PhD candidate in the Department of Physics at the American University in Washington, DC.

Maya Kinley-Hanlon is an undergraduate student in the Department of Physics at the American University in Washington, DC.

Our CQG paper describes measurements of optical coatings on silica glass substrates to determine if storing the LIGO optics for many years before installing them in India will cause any problems.  The coatings are known to be fairly robust in their optical properties, but as is always the case with LIGO optics, no one has any real idea about the thermal noise properties.  Since thermal noise from the coatings is expected to be a limiting noise source in the LIGO detectors, knowing if storing the optics could cause a problem is an important issue.  I worked on this Continue reading