Watch the short videos in this section to learn about what gravitational waves are, how we detect them, and where they come from.
- Gravitational waves explained using stick figures
– a fun, informative explanation by
- LIGO - What is a Gravitational Wave?
from Kai Staats.
- More from Kai Staats on Vimeo:
- LIGO - How do we detect Gravitational Waves?
- LIGO - What types of Gravitational Waves will LIGO detect?
- LIGO - How does an Interferometer work? (3-minute primer)
- LIGO - How do we detect Gravitational Waves? (2-minute primer)
Advanced LIGO Documentary Project
The Advanced LIGO Documentary Project has produced an eight-part video documentary series by director Les Guthman, with funding from The National Science Foundation, MathWorks, Caltech and MIT. You can watch all available episodes on Vimeo or on Youtube, or see the first episode directly below.
- Episode 1 – "Mirrors That Hang on Glass Threads"
- Watch the remaining episodes: watch on Vimeo or on Youtube.
Other video documentaries about LIGO
- Science stories – Collaboration,
a 5-min video produced by The Royal Society of the UK in 2015,
giving a brief overview of history of GW science from bar detectors to laser interferometers,
and talking about the LSC's role in an international effort to detect gravitational waves.
- LIGO Detection,
a 20-min documentary by filmmaker Kai Staats
describing the efforts to validate the first detection of gravitational waves in 2015.
- LIGO Generations,
a 25-min documentary by filmmaker Kai Staats
showing how scientists bridge the gap between the special language of astrophysics
and bright young students.
- LIGO, A Passion for Understanding,
a 22-minute documentary about LIGO exploring the science behind it, by filmmaker Kai Staats.
This documentary premiered on Space.com on April 15, 2014.
an award-winning 20-minute
documentary on LIGO from the National Science Foundation.
- Astronomy's New Messengers,
a video from the 2010 World Science Festival featuring physicists Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss,
astrophysicist Andrea Lommen,
string theorist Brian Greene,
science writer and author Marcia Bartusiak,
discussing how LIGO may open a new window on observing the cosmos.
- Gravity: Making Waves
– Learn more about gravitational waves through this eight-minute video
and accompanying essay
from the American Museum of Natural History (2012).
The site also includes a visual tour of a LIGO observatory and an interactive demonstration of how the
- 100 Hours of
– Watch Michael Landry report from the LIGO Hanford Observatory control room during the online
celebration of 100 Hours of Astronomy.
Recorded on April 3, 2009.
- Scienceface.org –
Learn more about black holes and the scientists that study them.
Scientists from around the world are interviewed by a young musician.
LIGO on Future Talk – Mysteries of the Universe.
Watch Brian Lantz and Riccardo Bassiri (Stanford University)
explaining how LIGO works and discussing its technology transfers.
The sounds of gravitational wavesWhile gravitational waves are not the same as sound waves, many of their properties are quite similar to sound. Converting gravitational-wave signals to sound is a great way to directly experience their characteristics – follow these links and it will be almost as if you're listening to the rippling fabric of spacetime itself!
- audio files for all GWTC-1 detections – Listen to audio versions of all 11 confident detections (10 binary black holes and 1 binary neutron star) from the LIGO-Virgo catalog GWTC-1 (spanning the first two observation runs). Available at gw-openscience.org.
- MIT Gravitational Wave Sounds – Listen to the gravitational radiation from binary black holes and a variety of other sources, with the frequency information from numerical simulations turned into audio files. (by Scott Hughes, MIT)
- MSU Sounds of Spacetime – This site contains a detailed exploration of gravitational-wave "sounds." (by Marc Favata and collaborators, Montclair State University)
- "A New Ear on the Universe," a 50-min podcast produced by BBC World Services Radio show, "The Documentary," was aired on September 26, 2015. Check the show's website for airing times, audio clips from the show, and more. The show's podcast.
Turn your phone into a "gravitational wave machine" with ringtones made from gravitational wave "sounds."
The "chirp" tones of the first two LIGO detections are available for download. Formats are suitable as ringtones for either iPhone or Android devices. (click here for installation instructions). Credit: LIGO.
- September 2015 Detection: m4r file (for iPhone) | mp3 file (for Android)
- December 2015 Detection: m4r file (for iPhone) | mp3 file (for Android)
- "Enchilada Cool Waves": Download for iPhone or Android/wav format
- "Black Hole Billiards": Download for iPhone or Android/wav format
- "GW Chill out": Download for iPhone or Android/wav format
Credit: Gravitational wave sounds by LIGO, ringtones by Milde Science Communication, Germany.
Click on the thumbnails below to see a gallery of photographs for each subject heading.
LIGO Hanford Observatory
LIGO Livingston Observatory
People at work
Images are provided by the LIGO Laboratory unless otherwise noted. LIGO Lab images may be used freely in the public domain with an acknowledgement to "LIGO Lab/Caltech/MIT."
LIGO from above
Aerial view of the LIGO Hanford Observatory.
Credit: Caltech/MIT/LIGO Laboratory.