LIGO Livingston to Be Designated a Historic Site

BATON ROUGE – The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, or LIGO, in Livingston, La., will be designated a historic physics site by the American Physical Society, or APS, on Wednesday, June 20. Media are invited to attend this special ceremony beginning at 11 a.m. To RSVP, email the media relations contacts below.

LIGO Livingston is one of two observatories in the U.S. that made the first direct observations of gravitational waves emanating from violent and distant astronomical events. The two observatories — one in Louisiana and the other in Hanford, Wash. — will receive plaques to recognize the extraordinary efforts that led to this detection.

The citation on the plaques reads: “On September 14, 2015, LIGO interferometers at Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, made the first direct observation of gravitational waves. The precision required to detect these tiny disturbances in space-time, caused by merging black holes, was made possible by the coordinated labor of over one thousand scientific and technical workers. This and a companion plaque at the other LIGO site recognize their contributions to this historic detection.”

LIGO Livingston is located on LSU property, and LSU faculty, students and research staff are major contributors to the 1,000-member, international LIGO Scientific Collaboration, or LSC. LSU graduate students and post-doctoral researchers have conducted research at LIGO Livingston continuously over the past two decades.

“Achieving this major scientific breakthrough of being the first to detect gravitational waves took a tremendous amount of vision and perseverance by LSU faculty and administrators including then-Chancellor James Wharton and state leaders. LSU continues to be a place where great discoveries are made,” said LSU President F. King Alexander.

In attendance for the ceremony will be LSU Adjunct Professor and Nobel Laureate Rainer Weiss, who is a professor emeritus at MIT. He was granted an honorary doctorate at LSU during commencement in May, where he stated:

“Of all the universities in the United States, LSU was one of the very first to take a gamble on the idea that you might find – this exodus idea Einstein had – gravitational waves…The discovery that was made by LIGO and the discoveries that continue to be made by LIGO are your discoveries as much as everybody else’s. They belong to you because you made that investment, and I’m forever grateful for it.”

Weiss was appointed as the first LSC spokesperson. Also in attendance will be LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy Professor Gabriela González, who was the elected LSC spokesperson at the time of the first two gravitational wave detections. Since 2015, LIGO has detected gravitational waves from three distinct black hole collisions and one collision of neutron stars.

“Having LIGO Livingston officially designated as an important site in the history of physics is an honor the LSU and LIGO team members are all proud of,” said LIGO Livingston Observatory Head Joseph Giaime, who is also a professor in the LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy.

LSU’s investment in gravitational wave science spans more than four decades, and is among the longest of the institutions contributing to the discovery. LSU faculty, students and staff have played leading roles in the development of several generations of gravitational wave detectors, in their commissioning and operation as well as the collaborations formed. This achievement is in part an outcome of LSU’s long-term vision and commitment to high-risk, high-potential scientific research.

LSU’s pioneering role in gravitational wave science began in 1970 led by LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy Professor Emeritus William Hamilton and Professor Warren Johnson, who built and operated previous-generation cryogenic bar gravitational wave detectors on campus for many years.

LIGO is a system of two identical detectors carefully constructed to detect incredibly tiny vibrations from passing gravitational waves. LIGO was conceived and originally built by MIT and Caltech researchers and funded by the National Science Foundation, with significant contributions from other U.S. and international partners including LSU.

For example, the LSU Cartographic Information Center, or CIC, in the LSU Department of Geography & Anthropology played an important role in determining the site of the LIGO Livingston observatory in the 1980s. Johnson used topographic maps from the CIC to determine the site for LIGO’s scientific mission. The National Science Foundation selected the Livingston LIGO site in 1992, and construction began in 1994.

Current faculty including LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy Assistant Professor Thomas Corbitt are working on technology for future gravitational wave detectors.

The APS established its Historic Sites initiative to raise public awareness of physics. The plaques placed at sites identify important and interesting events in the history of physics as a way to engage the general public to increase awareness of important past scientific advances.

Follow the ceremony on social media, including a livestream at



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Contact William Katzman
LIGO Livingston


Alison Satake
LSU Media Relations


Mimi LaValle
LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy