Scientists are about to restart the hunt for ripples in space-time – CNET

Two neutron stars colliding as gravitational waves spill outward.

Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes

On April 1, scientists will flip the switch on three giant machines that can detect ripples in the very fabric of the universe — the mind-bending phenomena known as "gravitational waves".

The giant twin facilities of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), in Louisiana and Washington, and the Virgo interferometer, stationed in Italy, have recently undergone significant upgrades to improve their many components.

Now they're ready to get back to work.

The facilities are able to detect gravitational waves because of a suite of high-powered lasers and mirrors. Each facility is arranged in an "L" shape with perpendicular arms stretching out for miles. At the corner of the L, a laser is fired, zipping down both arms and bouncing off mirrors before being sent back to its origin to recombine.

Gravitational waves give off very, very, very faint signals that can disturb the path of the laser and thus allow scientists to detect these universe-rippling events.

After upgrading the power of its lasers and replacing its mirrors, LIGO now has an increased sensitivity of about 40 percent over its last run. That will allow the twin facilities to peer across an even more vast amount of space in its effort to detect the waves. Similarly, Virgo has about doubled its own sensitivity.

With all three machines running better than ever before, detecting and locating "extreme cosmic events" that result in gravitational waves, such as black holes merging or neutron stars colliding, should get even better — making it much easier to pinpoint exactly where in space the waves originated.

"With our three detectors now operational at a significantly improved sensitivity, the global LIGO-Virgo detector network will allow more precise triangulation of the sources of gravitational waves," said Jo van den Brand, a spokesperson for the collaboration, in a press release.

In previous detection runs, LRead More – Source

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