Hannoverian scientists succeed in restraining light quanta

In Hannover, the future of gravitational wave astronomy begins

September 14, 2006

New light - brighter and quieter than ever before

New light sources and methods for measuring length with unprecedented precision were presented at the Center for Gravitational Physics, a joint research facility of the Max Planck Society and Leibniz Universität Hannover. Here, for the first time ever worldwide, there has been success in restraining light quanta that would otherwise cause the so-called “shot noise” of  light and thereby limit the length measurement accuracy of laser interferometers.

After the new light sources and methods have been tested for their stability and reliability in the German-British gravitational wave detector GEO600 in Ruthe near Hanover, they will also be the heart of future American gravitational wave observatories - the management of the American LIGO observatories has just decided in favour of the “new light” emanating from Hanover.

Extremely precise laser interferometers will help make it possible to listen further into the universe than with any other technology. These interferometers are ushering in a new wave of gravitational astronomy - Albert Einstein would probably jump for joy. This is because the direct proof of the gravitational waves predicted by Einstein - tiny distortions of space-time - remains one of the most important questions yet to be answered by modern science. Einstein himself did not believe that they would ever be measured. They were already indirectly demonstrated in the 1970s by the American astronomers Russel Hulse and Joseph Taylor, for which they the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1993.

“After more than thirty years of development at the vanguard of research and technology, this shows how basic research can lead to technological developments that are ready to be put to use,” says Prof. Dr. Karsten Danzmann, Director of the Center for Gravitational Physics.

The new state-of-the-art technology is a result of the long-standing collaboration between the Center for Gravitational Physics and the Laser Centrum Hannover e.V., as well as the research work on GEO600. This new technology is also suitable for geodetic measurements as well as for LISA, the gravitational wave observatory in space.

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