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Japanese Gravitational Wave Detector Almost Ready

A new gravitational wave detector is almost ready to join the search

An up-and-coming detector called KAGRA aims to spot gravitational waves by chilling key components to temperatures just above absolute zero, and placing the ultra-sensitive setup in an enormous underground cave.

Scientists from KAGRA, located in Kamioka, Japan, have results from their first tests. Those experiments suggest that the detector should be ready to start searching for gravitational waveslater in 2019, the team reports January 14 at arXiv.org.

The new detector will join similar observatories in the search for the minute cosmic undulations, which are stirred up by violent events like collisions of black holes. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, LIGO, has two detectors located in Hanford, Wash., and Livingston, La. Another observatory, Virgo, is located near Pisa, Italy. Those detectors sit above ground, and don’t use the cooling technique, making KAGRA the first of its kind.

KAGRA consists of two 3-kilometer-long arms, arranged in an “L” shape. Within each arm, laser light bounces back and forth between two mirrors located at both ends. The light acts like a giant measuring stick, capturing tiny changes in the length of each arm, which can be caused by a passing gravitational wave stretching and squeezing spacetime.

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