Commissioning of the Advanced LIGO Detectors
In March 2015, construction of the Advanced LIGO detectors was completed. The interferometers have already surpassed initial LIGO’s sensitivity. Over the next few years, the Advanced LIGO detector will be commissioned to their design sensitivity, at which they will be able to see binary neutron star coalescence at distances over 200 Mpc. At that time half a day of Advanced LIGO observation will survey a larger space-time volume than all of initial LIGO’s observations. The first observation runs are expected to start later in 2015 as soon as the sensitivity becomes astrophysical interesting.
Commissioning Advanced LIGO involves reducing the sources of noise in the detector that limit astrophysical sensitvity, as well as improving the stability of the detector. Syracuse students are playing an active role in the Advanced LIGO commissioning program, and there are opportunities for both experimental and astrophysics graduate students to spend time at the LIGO Hanford and LIGO Livingston Observatories to get hands-on experience with the Advanced LIGO detectors.
Advanced LIGO Upgrade Planning
In parallel planing for upgrades that will take Advanced LIGO’s sensitivity beyond its original design has started. Of particular short-term interest is the the integration of non-classical light sources to reduce the quantum noise contribution to the readout. Such an upgrade will require a squeezed vacuum source an additional extremely low-loss filter cavity, as well as active wavefront control to minimize any losses in the optical path. Syracuse University is currently designing actuators and sensor for active wavefront control.
Gravitational Wave Detector Characterization
We are developing qualitative methods of examining data channels using audio playback to facilitate classification of instrumental disturbances, and for comparison with possible signals. We use sophisticated filtering and spectrogram analysis tools, and do playback over high-quality audio equipment. This has already led to some insights into the nature of LIGO glitches, into mechanisms for non-linear pickup of acoustic noise, and suggested avenues of further studies for possible burst event candidates.