Back in 2015, a small wave of sound detected at one of two sites in the country was heard around the world
“We saw something- finally- two black holes merging together and forming for us a pretty large gravitational wave” said Joe Giaime, head observer at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory or LIGO.
The detection of a gravitational wave that would bring to life Einstein’s theory that what happens in the universe could alter our time and space.
“It took 50 years for anyone to have the courage to try to measure it and here we are 100 years later and it’s become part of mainstream astronomy” Giaime said.
Giaime has spent nearly 30 years at the facility researching and tweaking the science that helped detect those gravitational wave.
“It’s a pretty interesting mindset you have to have to keep working when you think that nature has something to show something to measure but we have to be a little more sensitive to see it” he said.
Now, work is underway to see even more. After shutting down for over a year, LIGO has just gotten back to the science. Millions of dollars in upgrades should help scientists there better detect astronomical events that could help us better understand the world around us.
“We changed out some optics and put in better ones, we have a more powerful laser, we have something called squeezed light and other things..it took more than a year to do this and now we’re running more sensitive than other” Giaime said.
They’re also helping to inspire the next generation of scientists at their Science Education Center.
“When kids come here on tours and they see scientists working on cutting edge stuff and know that there’s only two of these in the country… they can imagine themselves and they can picture themselves in that position. In 20-30 years from now they’ll be doing even cooler stuff we hope” he said.
LIGO won the Nobel Prize in science in 2017 for their detection of graviational waves.
To learn more about the facility and information on tours, visit here: https://www.ligo.caltech.edu/LA