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LIGO Mirror on Loan for Gravitational-Wave Studies

Dec. 19, 2013

Joshua Smith, assistant professor of physics, left, and junior Adrian Avila-Alvarez, a physics major, use the LIGO mirror as part of their research to help detect gravitational waves.

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Physics students are getting a rare opportunity to use a piece of high-tech equipment to learn more about, and detect, gravitational-waves. Joshua Smith, assistant professor of physics, currently has a LIGO mirror in his lab, on loan from the LIGO Lab at the California Institute of Technology.

The mirror, Smith explained, will be used to measure gravitational waves using laser interferometer in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors. "We're measuring scattered light from its coated surfaces in order to determine whether it is within acceptable limits, and to characterize the optical coatings."

The work of Smith, his students and colleagues, is part of a LIGO global research effort to detect gravitational waves — as a new way to explore the universe. LIGO, funded by the National Science Foundation, is a project led by Caltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Tags:  Academics & Research