As scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory resume their search for ripples in the fabric of space-time, the awards for their discoveries continue to stack up.
On Monday, Physics World announced the LIGO Scientific Collaboration as the winner of the magazine’s 2016 Breakthrough of the Year award. Foreign Policy also named the group among 100 Leading Global Thinkers for 2016 “for opening a window to the dark side.”
The awards stem from LIGO’s announcement in February of the world’s first direct observation of gravitational waves, confirming Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
LIVINGSTON — More than a billion years ago, two black holes collided and merged, creating gr…
Decades before the detection of ripples in space-time announced this month, a group of physi…
“What’s been achieved by LIGO, particularly in a relatively short space of time, is truly incredible,” Physics World Editor Hamish Johnston said in a news release announcing the award. “The observations it has made are the first direct evidence of the existence of black holes, so LIGO has already changed our view of the universe.”
The accolades come on the heels of others LIGO has received since its groundbreaking discoveries, including a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics and the 2016 Gruber Prize in Cosmology, as well as recognition from the White House, U.S. Congress, the Louisiana Legislature and the LSU Board of Supervisors.
Gravitational waves are distortions, or ripples, in space-time caused by violent and energetic events such as colliding black holes or neutron stars, exploding supernovae or the birth of the universe itself. The ripples travel through the universe at the speed of light, carrying with them information about the cataclysmic events that created them.
The waves that LIGO’s twin observatories in Livingston Parish and Hanford, Washington, detected on Sept. 14, 2015, resulted from the merger of two black holes, each about 30 times the mass of the sun, about 1.3 billion years ago.
LIGO detected a second set of gravitational waves on Christmas Day 2015, formed by another, smaller black-hole merger about 1.4 billion years ago.
Scientists are hoping that the discovery of a second set of gravitational waves, almost simu…
Individual members of the collaboration have been honored for their achievements as well, including LIGO spokeswoman and LSU physics and astronomy professor Gabriela González, who was awarded the highest distinction from the Senate of Argentina, the Honorable Domingo Faustino Sarmiento award. González was born and raised in Córdoba, Argentina.
Scientists and engineers who contributed to the detection of gravitational waves by the Lase…
In addition to the formal awards, the scientists have seen their detected waveform transformed into popular culture, including being turned into music, printed on clothing, inked as a tattoo and given its own Twitter account.
After popping bottles of “Costco’s finest non-alcoholic cider,” the scientists resumed work Nov. 30, listening for the sounds of other cosmic collisions, said Joseph Giaime, head of LIGO’s Livingston Observatory and an LSU professor of physics and astronomy.
The six-month observing period should yield more discoveries, after the detectors underwent a series of upgrades and refinements to their lasers, electronics and optics during a scheduled 10-month shutdown that began in late January.
The improvements boosted the Livingston Parish detector’s sensitivity by up to 25 percent over the first observing run, enabling the instrument to detect black-hole mergers at farther distances, Giaime said. The Hanford, Washington, detector has about the same sensitivity as before, although a recent boost to its laser power is expected to lead to even greater results in the future.
The scientists hope a third gravitational waves detector – Virgo, near Pisa, Italy – will join in the search by springtime. Having three detectors scan the skies at the same time will help them determine the source in space of any gravitational waves they find.
After a whirlwind tour of press conferences, parties and awards following their Feb. 11 anno…
LIGO’s discoveries have been “revolutionary,” heralding the start of the era of gravitational-wave and multi-messenger astronomy, the editors of Physics World said in announcing the team’s award.
Nine other achievements were short-listed for the honor, which the magazine’s editors and reporters selected based on the fundamental importance of the research, its significant advancement of knowledge, strong connection between theory and experiment, and general interest to all physicists.
“We are very honored to receive this recognition to not only a milestone discovery that has inspired the scientific community and the general public, but also to the teamwork that made it possible,” González said.
Other nominees for the award included the University of Glasgow’s construction of an inexpensive, compact, but highly sensitive gravimeter; the Pael Red Dot Collaboration’s discovery of evidence that a rocky exoplanet orbits within the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri; the University of Strathclyde’s creation of a new microscope lens that combines a large field of view with high resolution; and the creation of a single-atom engine.