The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is a facility built to detect cosmic gravitational waves and to study these waves for scientific research. It consists of two widely separated installations within the United States: one in Hanford, Washington and the other in Livingston, Louisiana, operated in unison as a single observatory. Funded by the National Science Foundation, LIGO is run by a team of researchers from the California Institute of Technology, Caltech, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT.
Based on designs developed in the 1970s by Rainer Weiss, scientists from around the world collaborated on LIGO's development and scientific objectives, and continue to participate in analysis of LIGO data. LIGO is the first of an international network of detectors that together will extract information about the sources of gravitational waves. Running LIGO in coincidence with other detectors is essential for ensuring confidence that gravitational waves have been detected and for determining the location and nature of their source.
* Photographs and diagrams courtesy of Massachusetts Institute of Technology