LIGO in Mississippi

The UM LIGO Group is an active member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration since 2007. Our contributions to LIGO include data analysis for gravitational-wave searches, detector characterization, instrumentation, education and public outreach, and service to the Collaboration. UM students and senior members actively help run and monitor the detectors remotely and on-site.

The UM-LIGO group is funded by the National Science Foundation and has received federal funding totaling over $1.8M since 2007.

The Science of LIGO

LIGO science image Much like ripples on the surface of a pond, gravitational waves are propagating ripples in fabric of space-time. They are generated by the rapid motion of large mass bodies such as black holes, neutron stars, supernovae or the entire universe a fraction of a second after the big bang. For example, when two dense neutron stars orbit each other, the space-time is rippled by their motion and energy is emitted throughout the universe in the form of gravitational waves.

The LIGO detectors are laser interferometers, located in Hanford (WA) and Livingston (LA). These instruments are designed to detect gravitational waves by measuring the stretching and contraction of the space-time that the waves induce along the arms of the interferometers.

On February 11, 2016 the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves from a merger of two stellar mass black holes. This milestone achievement marked the birth of gravitational-wave astrophysics. Read about UM LIGO contributions to the discovery here.