The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) is located in Livingston, Louisiana. LIGO is designed to open the field of gravitational-wave astrophysics through the direct detection of gravitational waves predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. LIGO’s multi-kilometer-scale gravitational wave detectors use laser interferometry to measure the minute ripples in space-time caused by passing gravitational waves from cataclysmic cosmic sources such as the mergers of pairs of neutron stars or black holes, or by supernovae. LIGO consists of two widely separated interferometers within the United States—one in Hanford, Washington and the other in Livingston, Louisiana—operated in unison to detect gravitational waves.
LIGO is a national facility for gravitational-wave research, providing opportunities for the broader scientific community to participate in detector development, observation, and data analysis. The capabilities of the LIGO detectors were greatly improved with the completion of the Advanced LIGO project in late 2014. The Advanced LIGO detectors will increase the sensitivity and observational range of LIGO by a factor of 10 over its predecessor, bringing 1000 times more galaxies into LIGO’s observational range.
The design and construction of LIGO was carried out by LIGO Laboratory’s team of scientists, engineers, and staff at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and collaborators from the over 80 scientific institutions world-wide that are members of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.
The responsibilities of LIGO Laboratory include operating the LIGO detectors, research and development aimed at further improving the capabilities of the LIGO detectors, research in the fundamental physics of gravitation, astronomy, and astrophysics, and public education and outreach. LIGO is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and operated by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).