Watch: New Documentary Follows the Hunt for Gravitational Waves

by Nancy Atkinson on April 21, 2014

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A newly released documentary brings you behind the scenes in the hunt for gravitational waves. The 20-minute film, called “LIGO, A Passion for Understanding,” follows the scientists working to create one of the most powerful scientific tools ever made: the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatories (LIGO). You can watch the documentary above.

Scientists have long theorized that the energy released in extremely energetic events — such as stars exploding or black holes colliding — would disturb the very fabric of the space-time continuum, much like ripples in a pond. These ripples are called gravitational waves, and while proving the existence of these waves has been difficult, their detection would open a brand new window on our understanding of the Universe.

Of course, the recent finding from the BICEP2 team of evidence of primordial gravitational waves is a landmark discovery that provides the first direct evidence the universe underwent a brief but incredibly accelerated expansion immediately following the Big Bang.

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatories (LIGO) have been searching for these elusive waves. The original LIGO collected data between 2004 and 2010, but a newly upgraded version of the instrument is set to come online in 2015 and the Advanced LIGO will probe deeper into the universe in search of gravitational waves. It just might be the astronomical tool that will find them.

The new film is directed by Kai Staats, who said on Space.com, “As an aspiring filmmaker, it is my intent to focus on films which act as a conduit for science education and outreach. While the general populous understands ‘cancer research’ and frequently quotes the most recent findings on age or diet, most people do not really understand what science is about, nor even what ‘science’ means.”

Space.com has a series of articles on gravitational waves and LIGO, which you can read here.

Diagrams show how LIGO detects gravitational waves.

Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Jeffrey Boerst April 22, 2014 at 2:21 AM

So exciting! Thanks for the added info-graphic, Nancy. Good to see a COUPLE docu-vids on the page today. I saw the G+ hang-out the discovery team did last week and was captivated. I love this stuff! Astrophysics is such a fascinating field… BTW, Is that brief disclaimer seeming paragraph about the recent detection from BICEP there to downplay the data per non confirmation as of yet or has there been a development casting doubt on it that I missed?

Ignoramus April 22, 2014 at 10:35 AM

If BICEP2 is correct, is LIGO then not redundant?

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