SCOTTISH scientists have played a major role building and installing “space mirrors” for a gravitational wave detector which measures ripples in outer space and which could help solve some of the mysteries of the universe.
• Scots scientists have helped build and install ‘space mirrors’ to measure ripples in outer space
• It is hoped that mirrors will prove Einstein theory on the existence of gravitational waves in outer space
The researchers from the University of Glasgow upgraded detectors which fit on to the US-based LIG (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) project at Livingston Observatory, Louisiana.
The detectors have been built to measure the effect of gravitational waves, ripples in spacetime caused by massive astronomical events such as the explosion of dying stars and coalescence of binary neutron stars and black holes. The existence of the waves was predicted by Albert Einstein more than a century ago but they have never been directly observed by an experiment.
The 40kg ultra-pure mirrors at each end of the 4km-long tubes which make up the detectors are delicately suspended by thin silica threads, creating a monolithic glass suspension system developed at the university’s Institute for Gravitational Research in the School of Physics and Astronomy.
Dr Giles Hammond, who has worked on the development of the silica suspension system, said: “ The first direct detection of gravitational waves will be a spectacular confirmation of a key prediction of General Relativity. Beyond this lie opportunities for discoveries in astrophysics, cosmology and fundamental physics, where gravitational wave astronomy provides unique tools for detecting and studying phenomena in extreme environments, unobservable by other means.”