We are the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, and we have made the first direct detection of gravitational waves and the first observation of two black holes merging. Ask us anything!
Hi Reddit, we will begin answering questions starting 2:15 PM EST. We have a large team of scientists from many different timezones, so we will continue answering questions throughout the weekend. Keep the questions coming!
About the discovery:
Yesterday we announced two major scientific breakthroughs:
1) the first direct detection of gravitational waves and
2) the first observation of the collision and merger of a pair of black holes
The black holes merged more than a billion light years away from us, releasing energy in the form of a gravitational wave that reached our detectors on September 14, 2015. One of the initial black holes was 36 times the mass of the sun, the other was 29 times the mass of the sun, and the final black hole is 62 times the mass of the sun, with 3 solar masses worth of energy radiated away in the form of gravitational waves!
More resources about the discovery are on the LIGO Detection Page.
Who we are:
Since we are a large team, we will be answering your questions from several accounts, listed below. We are a mix of people with various roles in LIGO, including engineers, research scientists, graduate students, professors, post-docs, and more! We will all sign our responses with initials and a description of our part in LIGO, so feel free to direct questions to specific people.
Note that unless stated otherwise, all comments made with this and the following accounts are personal opinions, and do not represent the position of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.
LIGO_WA: Scientists at the observatory in Hanford, Washington
LIGO_LA: Scientists at the observatory in Livingston, Louisiana
EGO_VIRGO: Scientists working on the VIRGO detector in Italy, part of the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO)
LIGO_Instrumentation: Scientists working on building the physical detectors
LIGO_Astrophysics: Scientists working on the astrophysical interpretation and analysis of our data
EDIT 530 PM: Thank you all for the wonderful questions! We are having a blast answering them, and a lot of them fueled great discussion among the LIGO crew, too. Keep the questions rolling in, we will be checking the thread and answering throughout the day tomorrow as well.
EDIT 12PM Saturday 02/13: We're back!
EDIT 3PM Sunday 02/14: Wow, this has been a great experience, didn't think people would still be reading this three days later! We will still have answers trickling in, but officially we are signing off now. Thanks Reddit!