LIGO team member Alena Ananyeva pauses during installation of new baffles that control stray light in the LIGO gravitational wave observing station in Louisiana. Other upgrades, including more powerful lasers and better mirrors, are expected to improve sensitivity by 40 percent. Image: LIGO/Caltech/MIT/Matt Heintze
After upgrading mirrors, lasers and other components to improve sensitivity, gravitational wave detectors in the United States and Europe are poised for a joint observing run, one expected to reveal more black hole mergers, neutron star collisions and, possibly, a black hole-neutron star merger.
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, made up of two observing stations in Washington and Louisiana, is joining forces with Virgo, the European Gravitational Observatory, or EGO, in Italy. The recent upgrades have boosted LIGO’s sensitivity by about 40 percent while improvements with Virgo have nearly doubled its ability to detect gravitational waves.
The joint observing run was scheduled to begin 1 April.
“For this third observational run, we achieved significantly greater improvements to the detectors’ sensitivity than we did for the last run,” says Peter Fritschel, LIGO’s chief detector scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “And with LIGO and Virgo observing together for the next year, we will surely ...