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Resource of the week: LIGO and the Quest for Gravitational Waves

This week's resource is all about the discovery of gravitational waves and how to build a gravitational wave detector using our tools available on our portal

In February 11, 2016  a major scientific discovery was announced by the LIGO collaboration, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory supported by the National Science Foundation, in USA: 100 years after the conception of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity which describes the force of gravity in a new perspective, humankind comes to observe its greatest verification!

1.3 billion light years away, 2 gigantic black holes with masses almost 30 times the mass of the sun each travelling at speed close to the speed of light collided creating a cataclysmic cosmic event. The collision energy was so huge that created ripples in spacetime: the gravitational waves.

The resources available on ISE portal will help teachers to introduce the modern theory of gravity of Einstein in a pedagogically consistent manner to their students.

LIGO Experiment

The LIGO setup is called an “interferometer”, one of the most standard tools used in physics from the end of the 19th century. It consists of two 4km long arms vertical to each other. A laser source emits light which is splitted in two beams each one of which travels through each arm. The beams are reflected in mirrors which hang from sophisticated suspension mechanisms and are sent back to the splitter where they meet again and return to a photodetector.