Last month, the BICEP2 project uncovered evidence of gravitational waves among the scattered cosmic microwave background of the Big Bang. This confirmation of the existence of gravitational waves has injected new interest in an old project: the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which is intended to scan the universe for gravitational waves and use them to pinpoint explosions, celestial phenomena, and other significant cosmic events.
While LIGO has been around since 1992, and was operational from 2002 to 2010, it has not yet been successful in detecting any direct evidence of gravitational waves. But this is likely to change by the end of the year, as a series of upgrades to the LIGO project—referred to simply as Advanced LIGO—will exponentially increase the sensitivity and precision of the equipment.
This trailer for a documentary about the project—Kai Staats’ LIGO: A Passion for Understanding—correctly conveys its potential to quite literally change the way we look at the universe:
If the new, upgraded LIGO does what scientists expect it to do, it will be our first direct look at the gravitational waves through which cosmic events resonate. It will be—just as the trailer suggests—like hearing the universe for the very first time. And there’s no telling what we’ll hear, or what effect this new evidence might have on our understanding of the cosmos.