Catching Gravitational Waves
Stefan Ballmer Syracuse University
In 1916 Einstein first predicted the existence of gravitational waves. But due to their intrinsic weakness it took almost a century of technological progress to build a receiver capable of detecting gravitational waves. This receiver, a set of laser interferometers with 4km arm length able to detect distance variations as small as one 100'000th the size of an atomic nucleus, is the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory. It will start its first observation run this fall. Advanced LIGO is designed to observe gravitational waves from the merger of binary neutron stars and black holes, providing the first direct measurements of strong field gravity. I will discuss the current status and sensitivity of the Advanced LIGO detectors, and I will explore options for short and long term upgrades. In particular, I will focus on the two most limiting noise sources: quantum noise of the light and thermal noise, highlighting some of the work done in my group. For lowering the quantum noise, the use of non-classical light looks most promising, and we are focusing on integrating this technology to Advanced LIGO. For mitigating thermal noise several approaches are possible. The most far reaching one will lead us into the design of future gravitational wave detectors, capable of observing mergers of binary neutron stars at red shifts above z=7.
Penny Davis, administration questions