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The experiment that made the first direct detection of gravitational waves is once again hunting for these space-time ripples.
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) stopped collecting data in January for a scheduled period of upgrades to its two detectors, located in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana. Now, the machines are back on, looking for gravitational waves coming from distant cosmic sources.
End - LIGO - Science - Run - January
Since the end of LIGO's last science run in January, "engineers and scientists have been evaluating LIGO's performance and making improvements to its lasers, electronics and optics —resulting in an overall increase in LIGO's sensitivity," scientists at the California Institute of Technology, which operates LIGO together with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a statement.
Using laser beams, scientists have detected the physical distortions caused by passing gravitational waves. See how the LIGO observatory hunts gravitational waves in this Space.com infographic.
Albert - Einstein - Existence - Waves - Space
In 1915, Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves. He showed that space and time are not separate features of the universe, but are united in a single fabric. Objects with mass create an imprint on the fabric, like a bowling ball on a trampoline. He also showed that extreme gravitational events, like the merger of two very massive objects, can create waves in that fabric.
The detection of gravitational waves has been compared to "hearing" the universe for the first time; the waves in space-time are similar to vibrations on the surface of a drum. These ripples provide an entirely new kind of information about the universe, and have the potential to reveal previously invisible features of the cosmos.
Scientists - Discovery - Waves - Start - Era
Indeed, some scientists have hailed the discovery of these waves as the start of a new era. The two black-hole mergers detected by LIGO very likely did not emit any light and, therefore, would have been invisible to...
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