LIVINGSTON -- The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) labs in Livingston and Hanford, Wash., have been designated Historic Physics Sites by the American Physical Society (ASP).
A ceremony is scheduled at 11 a.m. Wednesday, June 20, at the LIGO facility in Livingston.
Plaques will be placed at both labs to recognize the efforts that led to the first confirmed detection of gravitational waves from distant astronomical events, such as black hole mergers.
Dr. Rainer Weiss, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will attend the ceremony.
Weiss shared the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics with Dr. Barry Barish and Dr. Kip Thorne, both of the California Institute of Technology, for developing LIGO and for the detection of gravitational waves in late 2015.
“I am delighted that the American Physical Society has designated the LIGO sites … as historic places for the first direct measurements of gravitational waves from astrophysical sources,” Weiss said.
“It is a tribute to the many scientists, engineers, students and administrators that made LIGO successful. It is also an acknowledgement of the courage and wisdom of the National Science Foundation to take a risk on new and transformative science,” he said.
“It was a great surprise to me that the APS recognized the LIGO Observatories as historical sites so soon after the first detections of gravitational waves,” said David Reitze, LIGO executive director.
“This speaks to the tremendous impact that gravitational waves have already had on physics and astronomy,” Reitze said. “Everyone in the LIGO Laboratory is delighted to receive this wonderful recognition."
“This recognition of the thousand-plus people who enabled the first detection is a tribute to the LIGO Scientific Collaboration’s contribution to that step forward in science,” said David Shoemaker, LIGO scientific collaboration spokesman and senior research scientist at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics & Space Research.
APS President Roger Falcone will present the APS Historic Site plaque to be installed at the Livingston lab.
“It’s important to acknowledge the many years and extraordinary effort that have gone into LIGO,” Falcone said.
“Rai Weiss and Kip Thorne have been working toward gravitational wave interferometers since the mid-’60s, and Barry Barish’s leadership beginning in the early ’90s has been crucial to ensuring this daunting program came together and was successful,” he said.
“The APS Historic Site designation recognizes the dedication of thousands of people and their decades of struggle that have opened a new window on the universe, as much as it memorializes the first detection of gravitational waves a little over two years ago.”
The APS established its Historic Sites initiative to raise public awareness of physics. The plaques identify important events in the history of physics as a way to engage the general public.
The citation on the plaque will read:
“On September 14, 2015, LIGO interferometers at Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, made the first direct observation of gravitational waves. The precision required to detect these tiny disturbances in space-time, caused by merging black holes, was made possible by the coordinated labor of over one thousand scientific
and technical workers. This and a companion plaque at the other LIGO site recognize their contributions to this historic detection.”
The APS is a nonprofit organization of 55,000 members with headquarters in College Park, Md., Its goal is to advance and spread the knowledge of physics through its research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach and international activities.