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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Columbia University
  • Szabolcs Marka
  • (212) 854-8209
  • Zsuzsanna Marka PhD
Award Date:06/15/2012
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 70,000
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 70,000
  • FY 2012=$70,000
Start Date:09/01/2012
End Date:08/31/2014
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.049
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Preparing the Hardware Foundations of Environmental Vetoes for the Advanced LIGO Era
Federal Award ID Number:1208007
DUNS ID:049179401
Parent DUNS ID:049179401
Program Officer:
  • Pedro Marronetti
  • (703) 292-7372

Awardee Location

Street:2960 Broadway
County:New York
Awardee Cong. District:10

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Columbia University
County:New York
Cong. District:10

Abstract at Time of Award

Highly reliable, finely tuned gravitational-wave telescopes with exquisite sensitivity are required for the detection of gravitational-waves - ripples in the fabric of spacetime - and for astrophysics investigations that follow the first direct detection of them. This award will enable activities that ensure reliable operation and well understood data flow from the advanced LIGO gravitational wave detectors. Our focus will be on mission-critical activities targeting the precisely documented, well-characterized and traceable operation of the aLIGO detectors and specifically their physical environment. Environmental disturbances, such as seismic, electromagnetic and acoustic signals, can couple into the complex infrastructure of the gravitational-wave detectors and cause transient, temporary, or continuous deterioration of the datastream that shall contain the gravitational wave signal. These artifacts in the gravitational wave data stream caused by the environment or sub-optimal interferometer tuning must be identified, tracked down, and eliminated or reduced if possible. We will focus on aspects of the evaluation, calibration and upgrade of the hardware components aimed to identify these physical environmental artifacts. The identification of environmental noise sources and the mitigation of their effect in the advanced LIGO era will be vital (1) for ensuring a discovery that is justifiable to the scientific community, and (2) for the realization of a spectrum of science goals for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, all relying on achieving the design sensitivity for the advanced detectors and on achieving the lowest possible false event rates. The proposed experimental efforts therefore will significantly contribute to all gravitational wave searches using the advanced detectors, including the multimessenger type transient searches. Students from high school through graduate level will have the opportunity to participate in this research. In addition, the urban setting and existing outreach infrastructure of Columbia University will enable unique educational and outreach activities based on this research that target schools not only in the local community but also in the greater New York City metropolitan area.

Project Outcomes Report


This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

The quest for the first detection of gravitational waves is approaching the finish line with the imminent turn on of the US-based advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors. Data to be collected by the LIGO detectors will provide unprecedented information on cosmic processes originating from distant enigmatic sources such as compact binaries containing neutron stars and black holes.

This award enabled activities that pave the way towards the collection of highly-reliable precisely-timed data from the gravitational-wave detectors and also from their physical environment. Among others, the Columbia Experimental Gravity group contributed to the installation, calibration and documentation of the physical environmental monitoring (PEM) system of the LIGO detectors. In the upcoming data taking science runs the installed PEM system will serve a mission critical role by collecting information on environmental disturbances, such as seismic, electromagnetic and acoustic signals that may cause temporary deterioration of the data stream that contain the gravitational-wave signal, the signal from distant cosmic sources.

The group also contributed to timing investigations. These investigations are important in assuring that data channels, including the gravitational-wave, the PEM channels and the necessary interferometer control channels receive proper timing information through the advanced LIGO timing system. Reliable interferometer operation, and astrophysical data analysis both depend on precise timing information.

The group’s experimental efforts during the past two years therefore will continue to contribute to all future gravitational wave searches using the advanced LIGO detectors. In the upcoming years the PEM system will provide vetoes to data analysis searches and thus will be vital for ensuring a discovery that is justifiable to the scientific community and is not just a serendipitous artifact.  PEM and timing data will be used to identify, track down, and eliminate or reduce artifacts and glitches in the gravitational wave data stream caused by the environment or sub-optimal interferometer tuning.

A diverse group of students from high school through graduate level had the opportunity to participate in this research at Columbia University and/or at the LIGO observatory sites. Order of ten high school students from the greater New York City area received a unique educational and research opportunity and contributed to the Columbia Experimental Gravity group’s weekly summer research seminar series.


Last Modified: 12/01/2014
Modified by: Szabolcs Marka

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