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Earthquake Shakes up Gravity-Wave Detector

Photonics Spectra
Apr 2001
Seattle may have handled the Feb. 28 temblor in stride, but the magnitude 6.8 earthquake has delayed operations at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory in Hanford, Wash. It will take two months to realign the precision optics in the facility's 2-km interferometer, which was to be commissioned in March. Researchers were installing the in-vacuum optics for the WA4K 4-km interferometer when the quake occurred; only minor corrections to that instrument will be required.

The mirrors in the instruments, which were designed to detect gravity waves that theory suggests were formed by the big bang and in black hole collisions, hang from fine wires in vacuum tubes. The designers of the observatory had incorporated restraint systems for the optics, which prevented any damage.

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