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LIGO


I have been wanting to visit LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) for quite some time. It is not merely a physics experiment on the highest magnitude, it is an astro-physics experiment of the highest caliber.  LIGO is one of two facilities in the United States funded by NSF to attempt to detect gravity waves by measuring the very distortion of space-time.  Yes.  It is that fucking awesome.

LIGO is located out in Hanford, Washington which is more remembered for its nuclear waste legacy than it is for pushing the envelope of our very understanding of the universe.  But there it is. LIGO.  Out in the middle of nearly nowhere (at least relative to Seattle and western Washington) are two lasers both running some 4 kilometers in length, directed orthogonal (90 degrees) to each other.  At present LIGO is in the middle of an upgrade in order to increase its sensitivity by two orders of magnitude.  It is a ballsy gamble given that LIGO, as of yet, has not yet made any detection of said gravitational waves in the some four years it continuously collected data.  But that does not stop them, or us, from hoping that these upgrades will herald in an age when even the tremors of space-time, perturbed by the interaction of large stellar bodies such as two stars orbiting each other, are detected on a regular basis.

While I was out visiting LIGO I dropped down to Fidelitas Winery in Benton City.  Some 16 bottles later I drove over to Prosser, Washington where I was hoping to also stop in on Maison Bleue which, unbeknownst me, is by appointment only.  Bummer.  I instead hung out in Prosser at Wine O’Clock for dinner while listening to the blues band at the nearby winery.  Some few hours later I saw the clouds encroaching upon the valley so I decided to head out in hopes of camping in Yakima, WA.  But by the time I reached Yakima it was both quite dark and quite obvious that the clouds were there to stay the night, completely negating the desire for me to stay up trying to catch some starry skies; instead, I drove back to Seattle where I got home in the very hours of Sunday; it was one helluva day.

Life at LIGO

LIGO Mirror

One Comment

  1. Seaplanes and stories of old bush planes is what I can connect to my growing up. Peter and Teddy and I, have lunched, and followed the yard dog Blue around in search of offers to jump inside while those beauties rest in the hangars. Lots of times it works when you have cute and eager boys. Jerel and I took a honeymoon ride on Vancouver Is. in a seaplane as well. Very cool up there.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 8:43 PM | Permalink

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  1. Ward's Words › Hawaii, Hawaii on Friday, November 25, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    […] am deeply moved when I visit such places as Mauna Kea, similar to when I visted Lowell Observatory, LIGO and others. I am still brought to tears when I see these places and the questions they are trying […]

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