When neutron stars collide, they emit light and gravitational waves, as seen in this artist’s illustration. By comparing the timing of the two emissions from many different neutron star mergers, researchers can measure how fast the universe is expanding.

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) was designed to open the field of gravitational-wave astrophysics through the direct detection of these waves, predicted by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity

LIGO Scientific Collaboration website

CCA Gravitational Wave Astronomy Group

LIGO’s multikilometer-scale gravitational-wave detectors use laser interferometry to measure the minute ripples in space-time caused by passing gravitational waves from cataclysmic cosmic events such as colliding neutron stars or black holes, or by supernovae.

CCA scientists analyze the ripples detected by the LIGO instruments to look for unexpected signals from exotic objects and to find and characterize signals from merging pairs of black holes or neutron stars in order to understand the birth, life and death of massive stars. We also use LIGO’s detections, sometimes together with traditional astronomical observations in the electromagnetic spectrum, to measure the size and expansion history of the universe.

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