Gravitational wave sensors upgraded to chase "extreme cosmic events"




Our ability to detect gravitational waves is about to level.

Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) facilities in Washington, DC and Louisiana will be modernized with grants from the US National Science Foundation, UK Research and Innovation, and the Australian Research Council. – for stronger and more frequent detections and decreasing noise.

More than $ 34 million will be provided for the upgrade, allowing LIGO to look like the latest iPhone. Once completed, LIGO will move from the 2015 "Advanced LIGO" crisp phase to the "Advanced LIGO Plus" phase.

"I am extremely excited about the future prospects that the Advanced LIGO Plus upgrade offers gravitational wave astrophysics," said David Reitze, executive director of LIGO.

LIGO's twin facilities contain two 4-kilometer long arms that use lasers to detect minimal disturbances caused by extremely energetic cosmic events, such as black hole melting. Incredibly powerful events are responsible for gravitational waves, waving in space-time in the same way as water when you drop a rock into a pond. At the moment they reach Earth, the ripples are so small that only very small disturbances in LIGO lasers can detect them.

Two neutron stars collide as gravitational waves spread outward

Simulation of extreme spaces

On September 14, 2015, the facilities provided the first evidence of a black hole melting – and in turn, the existence of gravitational waves – only four days after a three-year upgrade. This discovery won the Nobel Prize for Leading Scientists.

"We are about to discover new types of phenomena and we will now receive entirely new information on familiar objects", said astronomer Bryan Gaensler shortly after the discovery.

Since this first detection that changed the world, LIGO has witnessed 10 mergers of black holes and a unique and huge collision between two incredibly dense stars, called neutron stars. The latter was such an extreme event that it not only sent ripples in space-time, but was also visible all over the planet, detected by telescopes on the ground and in low Earth orbit.

The proposed upgrades will greatly increase the number of events detected by LIGO. Reitze even hopes that we will see "black hole mergers every day" and describes the mergers of neutron stars becoming "much more frequent".

All this extra power is added, revealing, hopefully, some of the deepest and darkest secrets of the cosmos.


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