US-UK-Australia funding to improve global gravitational wave network
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Feb 18, 2019
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is awarding Caltech and MIT $20.4 million to upgrade the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), an NSF-funded project that made history in 2015 after making the first direct detection of ripples in space and time, called gravitational waves.
The investment is part of a joint international effort in collaboration with UK Research and Innovation and the Australian Research Council, which are contributing additional funds. While LIGO is scheduled to turn back on this spring, in its third run of the "Advanced LIGO" phase, the new funding will go toward "Advanced LIGO Plus."
Advanced LIGO Plus is expected to commence operations in 2024 and to increase the volume of deep space the observatory can survey by as much as seven times.
"I'm extremely excited about the future prospects that the Advanced LIGO Plus upgrade affords gravitational-wave astrophysics," said Caltech's David Reitze, executive director of LIGO.
"With it we expect to detect gravitational waves from black hole mergers on a daily basis, greatly increasing our understanding of this dark sector of the universe. Gravitational-wave observations of neutron star collisions, now very rare, will become much more frequent, allowing us to more deeply probe the structure of their exotic interiors."
Since LIGO's first detection of gravitational waves from the violent collision of two black holes, it has observed nine additional black hole mergers and one collision of two dense, dead stars called neutron stars.
The neutron star merger gave off not just gravitational waves but light waves, detected by dozens of telescopes in space and on the ground. The observations confirmed that heavy elements in our universe, such as platinum and gold, are created in neutron star smashups like this one.
"This award ensures that NSF's LIGO, which made the first historic detection of gravitational waves in 2015, will continue to lead in gravitational-wave science for the next decade," said Anne Kinney, assistant director for NSF's Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate, in a statement.
"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. These detections may reveal secrets from inside supernovae and teach us about extreme physics from the first seconds after the universe's birth."
Michael Zucker, the Advanced LIGO Plus leader and co-principal investigator, and a scientist at the LIGO Laboratory, operated by Caltech and MIT, said, "I'm thrilled that NSF, UK Research, and Innovation and the Australian Research Council are joining forces to make this key investment possible.
"Advanced LIGO has altered the course of astrophysics with 11 confirmed gravitational-wave events over the last three years. Advanced LIGO Plus can expand LIGO's horizons enough to capture this many events each week, and it will enable powerful new probes of extreme nuclear matter as well as Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity."
Gravitational waves will settle cosmic conundrum
London, UK (SPX) Feb 15, 2019
Measurements of gravitational waves from ~50 binary neutron stars over the next decade will definitively resolve an intense debate over how fast our universe is expanding, find an international team including UCL and Flatiron Institute cosmologists. The cosmos has been expanding for 13.8 billion years and its present rate of expansion, known as the Hubble constant, gives the time elapsed since the Big Bang. However, the two best methods used to measure the Hubble constant do not agree, sugge ... read more
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