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Livingston charts gravitational waves: What is LIGO?

9 months 3 weeks 1 day ago February 11, 2016 Feb 11, 2016 Thursday, February 11 2016 February 11, 2016 11:17 AM in News
Source: WBRZ

LIVINGSTON - Cosmic news Thursday that scientists at a remote research center in Livingston Parish proved gravitational wave theories suggested by Albert Einstein in 1915 instantly made this rural area of Louisiana a scientific mecca.

Gravitational waves carry information about the origins and nature gravity that could not otherwise be obtained. Thursday, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory in Livingston confirmed it had detected gravitational waves from the collision of two black holes in space 1.3 billion years ago. The waves were detected first in Livingston Parish at the LIGO center about seven miles north of I-12 on September 14, 2015 at 4:51 a.m. and - literally - seven milliseconds later at a similar facility in Washington state.

Both facilities operate in tandem, funded by the National Science Foundation and built by Caltech and MIT to study gravitational waves and research Einstein's general theory of relativity. LSU owns the land in Livingston (180 acres) and leases it to researchers. LSU faculty, students and research staff contribute to the work done at the center.

"This detection is the beginning of a new era. The field of gravitational wave astronomy is now a reality," LSU professor of physics and astronomy Gabriela Gonzalez said about the discovery confirmed Thursday morning.

LSU began what it called a pioneering role in this science in 1970. LIGO Livingston began collecting data in 2005.

The Livingston and Hanford, Washington locations function as L-shaped interferometers. Laser light is split into two beams that travel back and forth down 2.5 mile arms that are four feet in diameter. The tubes are kept under a near-perfect vacuum. The beams are used to monitor the distance between mirrors positioned at the end of the arms. Einstein believed that despite being fixed, the distance between mirrors will change by an amount so small humans can't detect it when gravitational waves pass through the detector.

LIGO is open for tours.  Information can be found in the facility's website, which appeared to be down after Thursday's announcement.  It is on Twitter HERE.

Watch the attached video clip from a WBRZ broadcast about LIGO construction in 1999.

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Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter: @treyschmaltz

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