LIGO Gets a New Machine; Why Are These Machines so Important

We are glad to announce that the most powerful tool used for detecting ripples in space-time from Earth is getting a massive upgrade.

An observatory from Japan will be joining three giant detectors from Italy, Washington, and Louisiana in order to form a global network of observatories that can study the ripples found in spacetime.

This network will be all about a particular field of science, which made its appearance only four years ago. It happened when the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory solved a 100-year-old mystery, which was first presented by Albert Einstein.

Back in 1916, Einstein predicted that massive objects which are accelerating, like black holes or neutron stars, would create ripples – waves – in space and time. But he never thought about these gravitational waves as ever being detected, because they seemed too weak to be found between all the vibrations and noise on Earth. And for 100 years, he was right.

The LIGO machines – the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory – from Louisiana and Washington were built in order to pick up the signals that Einstein thought would never find.

But after 13 years, LIGO detected the first gravitational wave back in September 2015. They discovered the signals from the merging process of two black holes, 1.3 billion light-years away. This discovery was the start of the new field of gravitational-wave astronomy, and it got a Nobel Prize in Physics for three scientists for helping in creating LIGO.

Ever since then, LIGO and Virgo – which came from Italy – have found two more collisions – the merging of two neutron stars (that took place in October 2017), and a black hole swallowing a neutron star (that took place in August, this year). In total, these observatories have found gravitational waves more than 30 times.

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