Vanderbilt Quarknet Group Visit to LIGO in Louisiana

From: Med Webster

You have reached Med Webster's page of LIGO photos taken during our Quarknet group's July 2012 visit to the LIGO lab in Livingston, LA. Our discussion topics that year were dark matter and gravitational waves. Professor Holly_Bockelmann helped us introduce the astronomy background and we ended our Quarknet week with a two day visit to the LIGO site.

Black Holes have turned out to be the source of the recently observed gravitational waves and Prof. Holly-Bockelmann had a great illustration of physics near a black hole.

The Michelson Interferometer is the basis for the LIGO detector, so we set up a Michelson Interferometer from the old optics laboratory to show the fringes produced by a classical Michelson interferometer. The fringes are projected onto a piece of paper and are clearly visible even with the room lights on. Visibility is better with the room lights off and even better with a longer exposure. At LIGO the fringes are narrowed dramatically by including a Fabry-Perot etalon.

One armof the LIGO interferometer stretches out into the distance. The LIGO vacuum pipe is inside this concrete protective cover. Most of our group of teachers assembled on a bridge over the Ligo tunnel and on the approaches to the bridge with the LIGO operations center on the right.

Brian "Irish" O'Rilly was one of our collaborators at Fermi Lab. He is now a staff physicists at LIGO and was our guide. Our formal tour started in the LIGO auditorium with Irish's explanation of the improvements to upgrade the existing device from a prototype to Advanced LIGO with improved sensitivity to detect signals from a much larger volume of the universe. After the discussion the tour started with the control room and then led us into the LIGO tunnel at the intersection of the two arms. Since the upgrade was in progress, parts of the gigantic vacuum pipe were and we could see some of the inner parts.

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That vacuum pipe behind Irish continues out through the wall of the building and into the tunnel. The large diameter makes this the largest hard vacuum ever produced despite the much greater length of the LHC beam pipe.

The size is shown more dramatically in this picture of our group on the cross-over platform and by this "How Big?" illustration by one of our guides.

Work on installing the upgrade continued while we were admiring the beam pipe and I got one more, cleaner, shot at the inner parts on my way back out.

This page was last updated 02/22/2016.