LIGO Prepares for Its 1st Observing Run

LIGO Hanford Control Room
Image credit: Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab

LIGO Laboratory, which has completed a major upgrade earlier this year, is preparing to start its first observing run. As a part of the preparation, LIGO will be undergoing final tests of its hardware and software systems during the month of August. On August 17, LIGO instruments at LIGO Hanford and LIGO Livingston will be fired up for a week for a prerun fine-tuning. Then on September 14, 2015, the 1st observing run will begin. It will last 3 months, during which the instruments at both locations will be running data collection around the clock.

Read more about preparatios to first observations at the LIGO Laboratory website.


LIGO Lab Launches New Webspace

New LIGO website.
Image credit: Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab

On July 31, 2015, LIGO Lab rolled out a new and improved webspace. Each of the LIGO's 4 locations now has a new website. Check them out for news, image and video galleries, announcements of public events, educational resources, and more!


LIGO Lab and LSC Release Strain Data from Science Run 6

The LIGO Laboratory and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) are pleased to announce the public release of strain data taken by the project's two gravitational wave detectors during LIGO's sixth science run (S6) that occurred from July 2009 through October 2010. This release follows the release of the LIGO S5 data in August 2014.

Histogram of LIGO and Virgo sensitivity to binary neutron star mergers in S6.
Image credit: Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab

LIGO's S6 observing run was conducted in coordination with the Virgo detector's Science Runs 2 and 3 (VSR2, VSR3), and with observations by the SWIFT space telescope and numerous ground-based wide-field optical telescopes. Two LIGO detectors, H1 at LIGO Hanford Observatory (LHO) and L1 at LIGO Livingston Observatory (LLO), had been upgraded to "Enhanced LIGO" for S6; the principal upgrades included higher-power lasers, a new readout scheme, and an output mode cleaner mounted on active seismic isolation. The third LIGO detector, H2 at LHO, was retired in 2009 in preparation for its upgrade in the Advanced LIGO program.

Timeline of LIGO S6 data from H1 and L1 detectors, 2009-2010
Image credit: Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab

The LIGO data release comes with detailed metadata, tutorials, tools and software that will help public users perform effective analyses. The release will promote broad participation in the advancement of gravitational wave physics and astrophysics from professional and amateur scientists, graduate students, undergraduates and secondary students. Participants are invited to help improve the quality of LIGO's scientific results, including the verification of results already produced by the LSC.

The LSC has analyzed LIGO's S6 data; no gravitational wave candidate signals were found in the LSC searches. LIGO will release data from the upgraded Advanced LIGO detectors that will begin operating in 2015. LIGO expects that such releases could include gravitational wave signals. Should regular gravitational wave detections begin to occur, public participation in LIGO data analysis will add an exciting dimension to gravitational wave astronomy. Numerical relativists, relativity theorists, astrophysicists and others will use LIGO data to better understand the dynamics of strongly curved spacetime along with the origins and properties of gravitational wave sources.

LIGO anticipates that data analysis in the LSC will improve as a result of this effort to make releases that the broader community can easily understand and use. The international network of gravitational wave observatories continues to move toward a model of shared data analysis; the public release program will facilitate the growth of this global capability.

Please visit the LIGO Open Science Center (LOSC) website for access to data downloads and tutorial materials. This site provides resources that will help participants understand LIGO data and gravitational wave science. LIGO encourages users to register for the LOSC email list. List subscribers will stay informed of updates and future releases, and can send questions and comments to the LOSC development team.

The LIGO Laboratory is operated by Caltech and MIT for the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). The LIGO Open Science Center is supported by NSF awards 1210172 and 0757058.

Read more: LIGO Open Science Center (LOSC)


LIGO's Taylor Celebrates 45 Years at Caltech

Robert A. Taylor, LIGO Instrument Specialist, has been at Caltech for the last 45 years. On 4 June, 2015 Robert, along with 13 other LIGO staff members, was honored at the 60th Caltech Staff Service Awards Ceremony. Read Robert's profile and interview at the Caltech News website.

LIGO is by far the most interesting project I have worked on since I have been here at Caltech ... I love what I do.

Fourteen LIGO Staff Honored at Caltech's 60th Service Awards

At the 2015 Caltech Service Awards ceremony, the Institute honored LIGO scientists, engineers, and administrators for their many years of dedication and service to LIGO and Caltech. The 60th Annual ceremony took place Thursday, June 4, and recognized almost 250 Caltech staff members for service ranging from 10 to 45 years.

Among the recipients were the following LIGO personnel:

Rich Abbott (20 years), Rudy Arvizu (30 years), GariLynn Billingsley (20 years), Kent Blackburn (20 years), Christian Cepeda (15 years), Dale Ingram (10 years), Michael Landry (15 years), Albert Lazzarini (20 years), Gregory Mendell (15 years), Harry Overmier (15 years), Janeen Romie (20 years), Robert Taylor (45 years!), Gary Traylor (15 years), and Roy Williams (30 years)

In total, this group represents 290 years of service to LIGO and Caltech.

Read Bob Taylor's profile and interview and profiles of Rich Abbott and Albert Lazzarini at the Caltech website.

Congratulations and thanks to all our valued staff!


Gravitational Waves -- Sooner than Later?

Barry Barish is the Roland and Maxine Linde Professor of Physics at Caltech and the former Director and Primary Investigator of LIGO. Stan Whitcomb is LIGO's Chief Scientist. Prof Barish and Dr Whitcomb were interviewed by Caltech's Douglas Smith about LIGO's past, present, and future on 26 May, 2015. Read the full interview.

Prof Barry Barish. (Image: Kimberly Teske Fetrow)

Dr Stan Whitcomb. (Image: Kimberly Teske Fetrow)

When we started this back in 1989, some people were a bit skeptical. With LIGO the common lore is we are 10 years away from detecting gravitational waves. I would say that it's not 10 years any longer. It's probably within five.


Dedication of Advanced LIGO

The Advanced LIGO Project, a major upgrade that will increase the sensitivity of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatories instruments by a factor of 10 and provide a 1,000-fold increase in the number of astrophysical candidates for gravitational wave signals, was officially dedicated today in a ceremony held at the LIGO Hanford facility in Richland, Washington.

Dr David Reitze, LIGO Executive Director and Primary Investigator.
(Image: Kimberly Teske Fetrow)

Dr France Córdova, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Government agency that funds the LIGO Project.
(Image: Kimberly Teske Fetrow)

Prof Thomas Rosenbaum, Caltech President.
(Image: Kimberly Teske Fetrow)

The dedication ceremony featured remarks from Caltech president Thomas F. Rosenbaum; Chair of Caltech Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy Tom Soifer; and NSF director France Córdova.

"We've spent the past seven years putting together the most sensitive gravitational-wave detector ever built. Commissioning the detectors has gone extremely well thus far, and we are looking forward to our first science run with Advanced LIGO beginning later in 2015. This is a very exciting time for the field," says Caltech's David H. Reitze, executive director of the LIGO Project.

See more about Advanced LIGO Dedication at Caltech News.