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Ask Ethan: How Can LISA, Without Fixed-Length Arms, Ever Detect Gravitational Waves?

2 Feb 2019, 15:01 UTC
Ask Ethan: How Can LISA, Without Fixed-Length Arms, Ever Detect Gravitational Waves?

C. Henze/NASA

Since it began operating in 2015, advanced LIGO has ushered in an era of a new type of astronomy: using gravitational wave signals. The way we do it, however, is through a very special technique known as laser interferometry. By splitting a laser and sending each half of the beam down a perpendicular path, reflecting them back, and recombining them, we can create an interference pattern. If the lengths of those paths change, the interference pattern changes, enabling us to detect those waves. 

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