We support the use of giant laser interferometers to search for gravitational waves.
Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) is the world's largest gravitational wave observatory. Comprised of two enormous laser interferometers located thousands of kilometers apart, LIGO is used to detect and understand the origins of gravitational waves.
The lasers must be made to resonate between the mirrors of the detector arms in order to make a measurement. This is called having the detector locked.
Any interference in this process — from seismic vibrations, electronics, temperature or pressure changes, to name a few — can produce noise that limits the sensitivity of the detectors to gravitational wave signals. They may even cause a locked detector to lose lock, and stop science observations.
To stop interference from happening we study the data coming out of the instrument to see if we can link any of the noise to a specific component or section of the interferometer, or attribute it on an external influence like the weather or human activity.
This allows us to either tweak the instrument or label the data as 'noisy' so that these noise features don't ruin analysis that could potentially contain real gravitational wave signals.
We have also participated in attempts to understand the behaviour of gravitational wave detectors and thereby improve their performance:
Nuttall, L. K. et al., 2015. Improving the data quality of Advanced LIGO based on early engineering run results. Classical and Quantum Gravity 32 (24).
Adams, T. et al., 2015. Cost–benefit analysis for commissioning decisions in GEO 600. Classical and Quantum Gravity 32 (13).