University of South Alabama, Office of Public Relations
November 17, 2009
Contact: Alice Jackson, Office of Public Relations, (251) 460-6639


LIGO Exhibit Visits USA Campus


The College of Arts and Sciences and the department of physics are hosting a traveling scientific exhibit on campus through Nov. 24 that explains the mission of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

 The exhibit will be housed in the art gallery on the first floor of the Mobile Townhouse on campus.

As the name implies, LIGO will be searching for gravitational waves that are produced by the motion of stellar-size objects.  Initially, the observatory will be searching for the existence of gravitational waves. Gravitational waves are commonly referred to as “ripples in the fabric of space-time.” They are produced by some of the most energetic and dramatic phenomena in the cosmos, including black holes, neutron stars and supernovas.  Later, they will use gravitational waves to observe parts of the Universe that are not accessible to visible light, much like radio-astronomy complements optical (or visible light) astronomy using telescopes to explore the Universe.

LIGO is on course to detect gravitational waves by using a device called laser interferometer in which the time it takes light to travel between suspended mirrors is measured with high precision using controlled laser light. The two LIGO interferometers are the world’s largest precision optical instruments and among the most sensitive scientific instruments on the planet.

There are two separate LIGO installations that constitute one observatory in the United States. One installation is near Richland, Wash., and the other is nearby at Livingston, La., which is close to Baton Rouge. For more information, visit This exhibit, constructed by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, will explain how the LIGO observatory will work and describe the type of astronomical phenomena the observatory intends to explore.   The format of the exhibit is self-guided tour.

Further information about the exhibit, including a map, exhibit hours and directions may be found on the web site  For additional information, contact the department of physics at (251) 460-6224.


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