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New LIGO Executive Director Named

Photonics.com
Aug 2011
PASADENA, Calif., Aug. 30, 2011 — David Reitze has been named executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

A professor of physics at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and a visiting associate at Caltech since 2007, Reitze will succeed the retiring Jay Marx, who was named executive director in 2006 and will continue to work on LIGO part-time. Reitze also has been named a senior research associate at Caltech.

"I'm really excited about joining the LIGO laboratory and Caltech and serving in the role of executive director," said Reitze, who received his PhD from the University of Texas at Austin in 1990 and who has been involved with LIGO since 1996.

Reitze’s early research focused on ultrafast optics and the development of high-power optical components and ultrafast lasers. More recently, he led the design effort for the input optics of Advanced LIGO, a more sensitive incarnation of the detector slated to begin operation in 2014.

Designed and operated by Caltech and MIT, LIGO was proposed decades ago as a means of detecting gravitational waves — ripples in the fabric of space and time produced by massive accelerating objects such as black-hole and neutron-star collisions.

Each of LIGO’s interferometers (including 4-km detectors in Hanford, Wash., and Livingston, La.) uses a laser split into two beams that travel back and forth down long beam tubes from which the air has been evacuated. The beams monitor the distance between precisely configured mirrors. The relative distance between the mirrors changes very slightly when a gravitational wave passes by.

Advanced LIGO will incorporate upgraded designs and technologies. The original configuration of LIGO was sensitive enough to detect a change in the lengths of the 4-km arms by a distance one-thousandth the size of a proton; Advanced LIGO, which will utilize the infrastructure of LIGO, will be 10 times more sensitive.

The increased sensitivity will be important because it will allow scientists to detect cataclysmic events such as black-hole and neutron-star collisions at distances that are 10 times greater. And because LIGO can "see" in all directions, Advanced LIGO will be 1,000 times more likely to detect gravitational waves and will make important contributions to astronomy and physics.

"This is a great time in LIGO's history," Reitze said. "Over the past decade, we've demonstrated that we can build and operate the LIGO interferometers with truly exquisite sensitivity and use them to conduct scientifically interesting searches for gravitational waves.”

For more information, visit: www.ligo.caltech.edu  


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