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RICHLAND, WA - The National Science Foundation's LIGO resumes its search for gravitational waves - ripples in space time after nearly a year and a half off. The hunt for gravitational waves began April 1, along with upgrades to its lasers, mirrors and other objects.

In 1915 Albert Einstein predicted that gravitational waves, or ripples in space time, existed. It wasn't until 100 years later that the LIGO Hanford Observatory, right here in Richland continue's testing Einstien's predictions. 

Since launching in 2015 LIGO has detected 11 gravitational waves; the last one being in 2017. Now, scientists at LIGO are on the hunt again but this time - with even better technology.

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Amber Strunk, an education coordinator for LIGO say these improvements mean more than discovering new gravitational waves -- But also, maybe even something bigger, like a super-nova,an explosion of a star. Certain stars that are large enough do this at the end of their life cycle.

"We're more sensitive than we ever have been," said Outreach and Educational Coordinator Amber Strunk. "It's a new way of looking at the universe."

In the last year and a half, LIGO has replaced things like the baffles inside the detectors which are darker.

"The job of the baffles is to absorb any stray light inside the beam tube. The darker baffles absorb more light--- causing less interference," said Strunk. "We also replaced parts of our laser... making it quieter."

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Quieter lasers means there are fewer vibrations. The suspension systems are what reduce the vibration from cars, earthquakes and wind.  

The third addition replaced 3 of the 4 large mirrors.

"We call them test masses. That got rid of some scattering of light, and some absorption spots that we had," said Strunk. "Finally the last big upgrade was something that we call squeezed light. This allowed us to manipulate the quantum state of light. This allows us to reduce noise where we can detect the gravitational waves themselves."

These improvements to the Hanford detector, along with two other obervatories LIGO Livingston in Lousianna, and Virgo in Italy all are working together to continue proving Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.

"We're hoping that we have a detection once every couple of weeks in our third observing run," said Strunk.

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This third observation is set to run for a year. Sometime within the year KAGRA in Japan is expected to be added to the mix. You can also sign up for public alerts which will almost immediately tell you when an object is detected.

You can sign up for the GCN’s (open alerts) at the following website

https://gcn.gsfc.nasa.gov/

The alerts via the itunes store maybe easier. You can find it at

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gravitational-wave-events/id1441897107

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