29. L.I.G.O. Project - Gravitational Wave Observatory - Nifty 50
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (L.I.G.O.) is designed to confirm the existence of gravity waves, a basic and still mysterious cosmic force predicted by Albert Einstein nearly 100 years ago.
Gravity waves are created during the collision of stars and other heavy objects in the universe. They are believed to affect space as well as objects in much the same way a dropped pebble disturbs the surface of a quiet pond.
L.I.G.O. will consist of two nearly 2.5-mile long installations located at Hanford, WA and Livingston Parish, LA. When the L.I.G.O. facilities are completed, scientists hope to gain insight into black holes, the birth of stars, galactic collisions and other astrophysical events that provide clues to the origins of the cosmos.
Measuring the effects
The L.I.G.O. facilities will contain extremely sensitive optical laser interferometers to measure the very small effects of the gravity waves. It is hoped these facilities will provide unique information about the physics of the strongest gravitational fields in the universe and the nature of the astronomical systems that generate them.
L.I.G.O. scientists eventually may be able to identify gravity waves created by the Big Bang. The new instruments will help to identify objects in deep space that cannot be "seen" from energy given off in the form of light, X-rays or other electromagnetic radiation.
Original publication date: April 2000