More nerd tourism -- The LIGO Hanford gravity wave observatory - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 07-09-2017, 12:39 AM   #1
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More nerd tourism -- The LIGO Hanford gravity wave observatory

Today I toured the LIGO Hanford gravity wave observatory located on the Hanford nuclear site in southern Washington. The tour is offered once a month and is open to the general public. You don't have to sign up in advance but I can see that in their future as they had a good turnout today.

The observatory consists of two tubes four kilometers long at right angles to each other. A laser beam shines down the tubes and is reflected onto itself, out of phase, so you can't see any light. If a gravity wave passes through, the physical length of the tubes is altered so the light waves are no longer perfectly out of phase, and light is detected. Yeah, it's complicated. Here is what I remember from the tour:

- The tubes are absolutely straight, so much that the support piers at the far ends of the tubes are three feet taller than the piers at the near ends, in order to compensate for the earth's curvature.

- The tubes are in very pure vacuum that takes several weeks to create. One part in a trillion or something like that (I don't know how vacuum is measured).

- Three gravity wave "events" have been detected with a high probability of a fourth. They are caused by rotating black holes colliding with each other.

- I noticed on a chart that the frequency of the detected waves ranged from about 50 Hz to 500 Hz. 300 Hz would give a wavelength of 1000 km. The frequency is determined by the nature of the event. Two neutron stars colliding, for instance, would give a much higher frequency wave due to their more rapid revolution around each other before the collision. I think there is a limited range of what LIGO can detect.

- As for wave amplitude, the guide said that the device can detect movement of a fraction of the diameter of a proton, if I heard him right. I asked: then how do you isolate the detector from everything that will influence it? He reponded that this was the job of the entire staff at the facility.

- Among stuff that will mess up their measurements that they have to compensate for or filter out are: any earthquakes anywhere over six Richters, smaller earthquakes in the U.S., the light pressure from the laser itself upon the mirrors, winds over 30 kts, trucks, 60 Hz line voltage, etc. I thought-- as clumsy as I am I'd wreck the place in one day if I worked here.

- The mirrors are suspended by an elaborate passive and active suspension that looks like a mechanical engineers dream, or nightmare.

Anyway, I thought the tour was worth taking and they do a good job of explaining what's going on to non-scientists. Here are a couple of photos.
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File Type: jpg ligo_interferometer_arm.jpg (63.5 KB, 25 views)
File Type: jpg ligo_control_room.jpg (70.2 KB, 24 views)
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Old 07-09-2017, 06:31 AM   #2
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It's an interesting part of the world for sure and played a huge part in the outcome of WWll. We're in Richland this week caring for my ailing mother. Curious which campground you found in the local are? It's been hotter than hell here so hope you have hookups to run the AC.
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Old 07-09-2017, 07:00 AM   #3
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Hi: Mike Lewis... Thanks for the "Techy trek". I wonder if they could cure the problem of flickering LED's in an Escape trailer? Alf
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Old 07-09-2017, 07:22 AM   #4
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Hanford

Mike, wow, at 5a.m. that almost makes my head hurt trying to understand. During WW2 my father worked on the Hanford project, probably construction. Also at that time I was introduced to my first trailer experience. It was about 28' and towed by a '39 ford with 85hp and 3 speed.
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Old 07-09-2017, 08:43 AM   #5
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I'm at the Corp of Engineers campground in Plymouth, on the Columbia River. It was the closest COE campground I could make reservations for, and it turned out to be quite a bit farther from LIGO than I had anticipated, not knowing the area. Yeah, it has power, but last night the power went off, scaring everyone except those with generators. The power came back on after a couple of hours. The campground is full.

When I arrived back at my trailer at 5:00 p.m. yesterday after the tour it was 94F outside, 96 in the trailer. I turned on the A/C, and by six it was still 94 outside but 75 inside. That's a good air conditioner! My fridge has been fine all along, btw.
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Old 07-09-2017, 08:52 AM   #6
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Speaking of Hanford-- the LIGO observatory is on land leased from the Hanford site. In my initial post about LIGO I showed a photo of the interferometer tube. You can see tumbleweeds piled up against the tube in the foreground. The Hanford people told the LIGO people not to remove the tumbleweeds because one percent of them are radioactive. They have to periodically send out a HAZMAT team to remove them.

You can also see a haybaler close to the tumbleweeds. I hope they aren't making hot hay.

Finally, LIGO was in the news today. Maybe they're not finding what they think they are:

https://www.wired.com/story/strange-...sparks-debate/
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Old 07-09-2017, 10:55 AM   #7
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Great write up Mike. That would be an interesting tour for me.

I finally found where Plymouth WA is. Yep, a bit of a drive for you. Nice area though.


PS go see if Keystone will give you a factory tour.
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Old 07-09-2017, 11:29 AM   #8
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If you are in the area, besides the LIGO tour, a must see is the B Reactor tour. Fascinating tour and highly recommended:

http://manhattanprojectbreactor.hanford.gov/

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Old 07-09-2017, 11:41 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BCnomad View Post
PS go see if Keystone will give you a factory tour.
Good idea. I noticed the Keystone plant when I drove by. I'll check it out.
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Old 07-09-2017, 11:51 AM   #10
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If you get to the Arco area of Idaho, another early reactor site to check out is the EBR-1, the world's first "atomic" power plant that produced usable electricity. Some photos here & here. Craters of the Moon National Monument (dry camping with wonderful night skies) is not too far away.

The building tour is interesting, however what impressed me were the atomic aircraft engines stored outside the building:
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