Detecting gravitational waves is an incredibly complex procedure. While the two LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) detectors, which exist thousands of miles apart, have several redundancies in place to help filter out potential noise sources, that’s not to say that their accuracy can’t be improved.
With that in mind, engineers are working on a few notable upgrades to the LIGO detectors that should help to filter out potential uncertainties in each of the detectors’ datasets. These upgrades will involve installing new coated mirrors that are more resistant to heat distortion and upgrades to the lasers such that they use quantum “squeezed light” to minimize fluctuations in the light’s phase.
As you might come to expect, these upgrades won’t come cheap, and the massive expenditure will also involve re-branding the detectors as ALIGO+ (Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory Plus) rather than just LIGO.
Getting back to the science of it all, these upgrades should help scientists be surer that what they’re detecting are indeed gravitational waves from substantial cosmic events, such as the merging of two black holes, rather than something else. But perhaps more importantly, it’ll make the instruments more sensitive, capable of capturing streamlined details about the events that can help scientists better understand what causes them.
The future certainly looks bright for gravitational waves…