The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) is an ambitious project to launch a new kind of astronomy.
Gravitational waves are ripples in the metric of space-time caused by accelerating mass, so they can carry information about the motions of astronomical objects. These waves are a prediction of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, and are now on the brink of direct detection almost 100 years after their existence was first postulated. Interacting black holes, coalescing compact binary systems, stellar collapses, pulsars and low mass X-ray binaries are all sources of gravitational waves, as is a stochastic background of radiation from the early universe. New and unexpected sources will almost certainly be found.
The detection and analysis of gravitational waves presents one of the most exciting prospects of modern astrophysics, and one of the most challenging environments for precision measurement. The first generation of interferometric detectors including LIGO, GEO600, and Virgo were only sensitive enough to set upper limits on astrophysical events. Advanced LIGO, the first detectors of the second generation of observatories, has now begun operation. These detectors are 10 times more sensitive than the first generation, and will make the first detection of gravitational waves possible. Now that the second generation of detectors are on the brink of a detection, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) is engaged in research and development of improved detectors to realize the full potential of gravitational wave astronomy.
The group at Stanford is one of the original members of the LSC, and we are proud that our work on Lasers, Material science, and Seismic Isolation is evident in key components of the LIGO detectors. You can learn more information about our group by exploring the other tabs on this page, and you can learn more about our collaboration by following the links to Homepage for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration or exploring the webpage for the LIGO Lab, which runs the observatories.