The First Sounds of Merging Black Holes » LIGO0

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A schematic depiction of LIGO’s interferometric gravitational wave detector. Light from a laser is split in two by a
beam splitter; one half travels down the vertical arm of the interferometer, the other half travels down the horizontal arm. The
detector is designed so that in the absence of gravitational waves (top left) the light takes the same time to travel back and forth
along the two arms and interferes destructively at the photodetector, producing no signal. As the wave passes (moving clockwise
from top right) the travel times for the lasers change, and a signal appears in the photodetector. (The actual distortions are
extremely small, but are exaggerated here for easier viewing.) Inset: The elongations in a ring of particles show the effects of
a gravitational wave on spacetime. [Credit: APS/Alan Stonebraker]

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