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Re: LIGO Progress

Subject: Re: LIGO Progress
Date: Sat, 25 Mar 2006 23:41:12 +0000 UTC
Newsgroups: sci.astro
Mike <[email protected]> wrote:
> Does anyone have any new information on anything new being done to the LIGO
> detector?

LIGO has only quite recently reached its design sensitivity.  A year-long
"science run" began in mid-November (it will actually run about a year and
a half to collect a full year's data).  

> After hearing the LIGO gravity wave detector was not sensitive enough to
> detect gravity waves what are the steps being done to fix it? 

It's not at all clear that "the LIGO gravity wave detector was not sensitive 
enough to detect gravity waves."  The basic problem is that detectability
depends on how far away a source is, and we don't have good estimates of
-- for instance -- how many neutron star binaries there are in the galaxy.
It is still quite possible that interesting things will be seen in the
current run.

> Are they planning to rip the guts out of it?

There are well-developed plans for "Advanced LIGO," with many elements 
now in the development and testing stage.  The sensitivity will increase
by a factor of ten.  This means that Advanced LIGO will be able to see
sources in 1000 times the spatial volume that LIGO can.  Current plans 
are for Advanced LIGO to start observations in 2013.

If Advanced LIGO fails to see anything, that failure will in itself be 
a major result -- it will be a demonstration that our current understanding 
of gravitational radiation is wildly wrong.  If this is the case, it's
worth knowing.  If it does see gravitational radiation, it will allow us
to look at processes we cannot otherwise see at all -- for example, the
merger of a pair of black holes.

Steve Carlip


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