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Gravitational Waves and LIGO - Amber Stuver

Gravitational Waves and LIGO - Amber Stuver - LASER...

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LASER INTERFEROMETER GRAVITATIONAL WAVE OBSERVATORY LIGO CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY Lecture Notes LIGO-T080232-00-Z 22 November 2008 Gravitational Waves and LIGO: Opening New "Eyes" on the Universe (Westinghouse Science Honors Institute Lecture Notes) Amber L. Stuver California Institute of Technology LIGO Project – MS 18-34 1200 E. California Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91125 Phone (626) 395-2129 Fax (626) 304-9834 E-mail: [email protected] Massachusetts Institute of Technology LIGO Project – NW22-295 185 Albany St Cambridge, MA 02139 Phone (617) 253-4824 Fax (617) 253-7014 E-mail: [email protected] LIGO Hanford Observatory P.O. Box 1970 Mail Stop S9-02 Richland, WA 99352 Phone (509) 372-8106 Fax (509) 372-8137 LIGO Livingston Observatory P.O. Box 940 Livingston, LA 70754 Phone (225) 686-3100 Fax (225) 686-7189 http://www.ligo.caltech.edu/
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Gravitational Waves and LIGO A. Stuver 2 of 14 Throughout history, humans have relied on different forms of light to observe their universe and determine its history and mechanics. Today, we are on the edge of a new frontier in astronomy: gravitational wave astronomy. Gravitational waves carry information on changes in the positions of objects in the universe. Since gravity came into existence before light, gravitational waves will allow us to observe further back into the history of the universe than ever before. And since gravitational waves are not absorbed or reflected by the mass in the rest of the universe, we will be able to see them in the form in which they were created. Moreover, we will effectively be able to “see through” objects between Earth and the gravitational wave source. Most importantly, gravitational waves hold the potential of the unknown. Every time humans have opened new “eyes” on the universe, we have discovered something unexpected that revolutionized how we saw the universe and our place within it. Today, with the United States’ gravitational wave detectors (LIGO) and its international partners, we are preparing to see the universe with eyes that do not depend on light. GRAVITATIONAL WAVES Many people are familiar with the story of “Newton’s Apple” – while sitting under a tree one day, Newton observed an apple falling in the distance and realized the moon he saw in the sky orbits the Earth because of the same force that made the apple fall. This force is gravity, and Newton recognized that gravity acts over distances without physical contact— after all, nothing was touching that famous apple to make it fall. Masses feel gravitational force because every mass in the universe has its own gravitational field, which adds together with all of the other fields in the universe. According to Newton’s theory of gravity, when a mass changes position, the entire gravitational field throughout the universe changes instantaneously, and the resultant gravitational forces are instantly changed accordingly. But
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Gravitational Waves and LIGO - Amber Stuver - LASER...

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