The Heart of Louisiana: LIGO

In Livingston Parish, scientific developments occur at the LIGO facility

A laboratory in the woods of Livingston Parish is on the cutting edge of uncovering some of the hidden secrets of the universe. Scientists at the LIGO facility recently captured the gravitation waves from a collision of black holes that occurred more than a billion years ago.

Once a month, visitors fill the science center and learn about light, gravity and gravitational waves. “It mimics waves, just like gravitational waves, light waves, how it moves in a wave form, so it kind of translates the motion here, translates down to the end,” said LGO volunteer Bryant Ross. Some of these basic principles of science are now being used to record cataclysmic events in the universe so far away that they can only be detected at LIGO.

“So LIGO stands for laser interferometer gravitational wave observatory,” said LIGO’s William Katzman. It’s like having a new sense. So for the first time, we can hear the universe speak to us.”

Amber Stuver, who has a Ph.D in physics, has worked at the facility for 17 years. During that time, no gravitation waves were detected, until LIGO got an upgrade and was going through its final operational tests when just before 5 a.m. Sept. 14, 2015, a gravitational wave, that came from two colliding black holes more than a billion light years away, passed through earth, and was recorded at LIGO.

It was amazing luck that the Louisiana LIGO had just become operational the morning that wave was detected.  If it had not been turned on, that one event would have been missed.  Now, scientists are patiently waiting for the next gravitational wave to get another glimpse into the far reaches of our universe.

To become one of the few visitors at LIGO, visit the Livingston Parish location on the third Saturday of every month.

For more information, click here.