Gravitational waves

The whisper of a black hole

Print edition : March 18, 2016

Inspecting LIGO's optics for contaminants. Before sealing up the chamber and pumping the vacuum system down, a LIGO optics technician clad in special clean room garb inspects one of LIGO's core optics (mirrors) by illuminating its surface with light at a glancing angle. It is critical to LIGO's operation that there is no contamination on any of its optical surfaces. Photo: Matt Heintze/Caltech/MIT/LIGO LAB

Building a laser interferometer with the enormous sensitivity required to "hear" faraway black holes colliding was the result of a continuous process that goes back more than half a century.

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