Increased funding for gravitational wave observatories

An image of gravitational wave to demonstrate gravitational wave observatories
© NASA/CXC/UMass Lowell/S. Laycock et al.; Optical: Bill Snyder Astrophotography

The global network of gravitational wave observatories network is being upgraded, it has been announced by lead science funding agencies in the United Kingdom and United States.

In 2016, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) had detected gravitational waves caused by the collision of two black holes in the distant galaxy. Now the global network of gravitational wave observatories will be upgraded to almost double its sensitivity.

What are gravitational waves?

Gravitational waves are defined as ripples in space, caused by such cosmic events as the collision of black holes. Due to the fact that they are not electromagnetic radiation, their results were undetectable until LIGO technology detected them for the first time in 2016.

NASA’s simulation of a merger of two black holes and gravitational radiation:

©NASA

Extreme physics

NSF Director France Córdova said: “This award ensures that LIGO, which made the first historic detection of gravitational waves in 2015, will continue to lead in gravitational wave science for the next decade.”

“With improvements to the detectors — which include techniques from quantum mechanics that refine laser light and new mirror coating technology — the twin LIGO observatories will significantly increase the number and strength of their detections. Advanced LIGO Plus will reveal gravity at its strongest and matter at its densest in some of the most extreme environments in the cosmos. ”

He added: “These detections may reveal secrets from inside supernovae and teach us about extreme physics from the first seconds after the universe’s birth.”

Where is the funding coming from?

•The $US30 million Advanced LIGO Plus (ALIGO+) project will improve the two existing Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatories in the US;
•The US NSF is providing $20.4 million funding for ALIGO+; #
•UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will provide £10.7 million ($US14.1 million); and
•Further support from the Australian Research Council.

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