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LIGO, which stands for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, is a large physics experiment which is attempting to directly detect gravitational waves. Cofounded in 1992 by Kip Thorne and Ronald Drever of Caltech and Rainer Weiss of MIT, LIGO is a joint project between scientists at MIT, Caltech, and many other colleges and universities. It is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). At the cost of $365 million (in 2002 USD), it is the largest and most ambitious project ever funded by the NSF.[1][2] The international LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) is a growing group of researchers, some 600 individuals at roughly 40 institutions, working to analyze the data from LIGO and other detectors, and working toward more sensitive future detectors. The current spokesperson for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration is University of Florida Physicist David Reitze.



LIGO's mission is to directly observe gravitational waves of cosmic origin. These waves were first predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity in 1916, when the technology necessary for their detection did not yet exist. Gravitational waves were indirectly suggested to exist when observations were made of the binary pulsar PSR 1913+16, for which the Nobel Prize was awarded to Hulse and Taylor in 1993.

Direct detection of gravitational waves has long been sought, for it would open up a new branch of astronomy to complement electromagnetic telescopes and neutrino observatories. Joseph Weber pioneered the effort to detect gravitational waves in the 1960s through his work on resonant mass bar detectors. Bar detectors continue to be used at six sites worldwide. By the 1970s, scientists including Rainer Weiss realized the applicability of laser interferometry to gravitational wave measurements.

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