Advanced LIGO detectors begin first observation run

Key contributions to advanced LIGO from AEI researchers

September 18, 2015

On, Friday, September 18th 2015, the first official 'observing run' (O1) of the advanced LIGO detectors in the USA began when the clock struck 8 a.m. Pacific time. While this date marks the official start of data collection, both interferometers have been operating in engineering mode taking data for some weeks already as technicians, scientists, and engineers worked to refine the instrument to prepare it for official observation duties. The GEO600 gravitational-wave detector operated by the Albert Einstein Institute (AEI) together with UK partners near Hannover, Germany, is taking data simultaneously with the LIGO detectors.

AEI researchers have made essential contributions to the advanced LIGO gravitational-wave detectors in several key areas: custom-made high-power laser systems required for the high-precision measurements, efficient data analysis methods running on powerful computer clusters, and accurate waveform models to detect gravitational waves and extract astrophysical information. The AEI is a leading partner in the international gravitational-wave science community, and its researchers keep pushing the boundaries of science on the way to the first direct detection of gravitational waves.

This will open a new window to the otherwise invisible “dark” side of the Universe and mark the beginning of gravitational-wave astronomy. Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time that are emitted by cataclysmic cosmic events such as exploding stars, merging black holes and/or neutron stars, and rapidly rotating compact stellar remnants. These waves were predicted in 1916 by Albert Einstein as a consequence of his general theory of relativity, but have never been observed directly. At their design sensitivity, the aLIGO instruments should detect multiple gravitational-wave events each year.

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