Daniel Sigg: The Advanced LIGO Detectors in the era of First Discoveries

A plenary talk from SPIE Optics + Photonics 2016

09 September 2016

Following a major upgrade, the two advanced detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) held their first observation run between September 2015 and January 2016. The product of observable volume and measurement time exceeded that of all previous runs within the first 16 days of coincident observation. On 14 September 2015, the Advanced LIGO detectors observed the transient gravitational-wave signal GW150914, determined to be the coalescence of two black holes, launching the era of gravitational-wave astronomy. We present the main features of the detectors that enabled this observation. At its core Advanced LIGO is a multi-kilometer-long Michelson interferometer employing optical resonators to enhance its sensitivity. Four very pure and homogeneous fused silica optics with excellent figure quality serve as the test masses. The displacement produced by the event GW150914 was one 200th of a proton radius. It was observed with a combined signal-to-noise ratio of 24 in coincidence by the two detectors. At full sensitivity, the Advanced LIGO detectors are designed to deliver another factor of three improvement in the signal-to-noise ratio for binary black hole systems similar in masses to GW150914.

Daniel Sigg is a senior scientist with the California Institute of Technology working at the LIGO Hanford Observatory in Washington state. He is responsible for coordinating the commissioning effort at Hanford and for bringing the Advanced LIGO detector to full sensitivity. He received his PhD in physics from ETH Zurich (Switzerland). He joined the LIGO project in 1995 as a postdoctoral scholar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His current research interests include gravitational-wave astrophysics, precision measurements and large-scale optical interferometers.

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