Leonard E Parker Center for Gravitation, Cosmology & Astrophysics

LIGO Research Group

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Leonard E Parker Center for Gravitation, Cosmology and Astrophysics

About LIGO

One hundred years ago, Einstein formulated his general theory of relativity which resulted in a set of remarkable predictions from cosmological expansion to black holes to gravitational waves --- predictions that are pushing the frontier of modern astronomy. This theory is among the most successful theories of nature: from its dramatic debut explaining the perihelion advance of Mercury and predicting the bending of light as it passes the sun, general relativity has passed every experimental test to date. The direct detection of gravitational waves produced by colliding black holes will be the crowning glory of Einstein's theory, yet it is just the first step in realizing the promise of gravitational waves as a new astronomical tool.

The NSF-funded Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) began operating second-generation detectors in early September 2015 at the sites in Livingston, LA, and in Hanford, WA. Just three days of this run surveys a swath of spacetime equal to an entire year of observations with first-generation detectors. Over the next few years, enhancements to the LIGO interferometers will extend their reach, essentially assuring routine gravitational-wave detections by the end of the decade. Advanced LIGO will eventually be joined by other second-generation detectors including Virgo and KAGRA. These observatories are designed to detect gravitational waves that are emitted from the cores of exploding stars, from colliding neutron stars and black holes, and from rapidly rotating neutron stars in our Galaxy. The network of detectors operating in conjunction will be able to locate gravitational-wave sources on the sky and to measure their properties. Over the next decade, the triumph of the first detections will be eclipsed by the scientific impact of regular observations of astrophysical sources of gravitational waves.

About the group

The LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) provides a forum for organizing technical and scientific research in gravitational-wave detection. The University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee (UWM) LSC group comprises 26 faculty, scientists, postdocs, and students who search for gravitational waves from gamma-ray bursts, neutron-star and black-hole collisions, cosmic strings, and rapidly spinning neutron stars. By bringing together expertise in gravitational physics, astrophysics, and computing, we address scientific challenges on the critical path to the success of LIGO and at the frontiers of science.

The group leads the development and operations of the LIGO Data Grid, the distributed computational facility to analyze data from the worldwide network of gravitational-wave detectors including LIGO. The scientific goals of the LSC rely on a substantial computational infrastructure, which spans astrophysical data analysis, detector and analysis middleware, software sustainability and computational hardware support. With partners at AEI, Caltech, Cal. State Fullerton, Louisianna State, MIT, Penn. State, and Syracuse, the UWM team delivered a system that allows that data from the geographically distributed observatories to be analyzed together within seconds of acquisition.

The group also operates a computing facility that delivers 3392 compute cores and almost 0.5 PBytes of storage. This system was designed specifically for LIGO data analysis work and is widely used by members of the LSC outside of the UWM group. To date, 68 million hours of computing have been used to analyze data from LIGO's first observing run; UWM delivered about 20% of this.


GW151226: Observation of Gravitational Waves from a 22-Solar-Mass Binary Black Hole Coalescence

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) has made a second detection of gravitational waves. Like the historic first detection (made in September 2015 and announced in February 2016), this event was generated by the coalescence of a binary black hole system.

June 15, 2016 |

The Right Place At The Right Spacetime

Scientists from the LIGO project recently announced detection of gravitational waves from the merger of two stellar-mass black holes. A UWM graduate student, Alex Urban, was fortunate enough to be at one of the LIGO sites in Livingston, LA, for three months during this historic game-changing discovery. Hear his personal story here!

February 18, 2016 |

Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger

The Advanced LIGO interferometers made the first direct detection of gravitational waves. The waves were generated by the inspiral, merger, and ringdown of a binary black hole system.

February 11, 2016 |

Students & Public

There are plenty of entertaining resources about gravitational waves and the LIGO experiment. Here we list a small selection, from popular science articles and books to videos and games.

UWM Center for Gravitation and Cosmology | |