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On its Next run, LIGO Will be Able to Probe 8 Times as Much Space – Universe Today

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Materials science has once again come through for space exploration.  Researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) have developed a coating that could increase the sensitivity of LIGO by almost an order of magnitude.  That would increase the detection rate of the gravitational waves the observatory is seeking from about once a week to once a day, mainly due to the increased volume of space that the observatory’s interferometers would be able to collect signals from.

It may be shocking that something as simple as a coating could dramatically impact a scientific experiment, but this was not just a simple coating.  It was specially designed to turn the glass placed in LIGO’s interferometer into a mirror.  Having a highly reflective mirror is essential to having a highly sensitive instrument, as the mirrors reflect the laser beams used to measure the gravitational waves themselves.  However, the coatings used to make these mirrors reflective can introduce a tiny amount of noise to the instrument usually caused by the material itself absorbing some heat from the beam.  Unfortunately, at the sensitivities LIGO is looking for, that small amount of noise could have an outsized impact on results.

One of the coated pieces of glass in a test chamber with a red laser beam.
Credit – CalTech

Therefore, the development of a better coating has been central to efforts to improve LIGO’s sensitivity.  Now, Gabriele Vajente, a senior research scientist at LIGO and Caltech, thinks he has a solution. Perhaps more importantly, he has developed a tool for finding better solutions in the future.

The current best solution that Dr. Vajente and his team came up with is a combination of titanium and germanium oxide, which crucially absorbed the least amount of energy into the mirror itself.  That absorption is the root cause of the noise introduced into the system.  Less absorption, therefore, means less noise.

Setting up the experimental test chamber.
Setting up the experimental test chamber.
Credit – CalTech

The coating will be applied to the 40 kg (88 lb) mirrors using a technique similar to atomic layer deposition (ALD). Germanium and titanium atoms are combined with oxygen and then deposited directly onto the mirror.  

Testing the effectiveness of the coating is an entirely different matter.  Usually, testing would take upwards of a week, limiting the number of different material combinations that could be tested.  Dr. Vajente and his team then developed a technique where that testing time would be completely automated and take around eight hours.   

[embedded content]
UT video describing LIGO’s latest observational campaign.

That quick turn-around time allowed the team to iterate over many possible material structures in ways that had not previously been possible.  The resulting germanium and titanium dioxide coating could potentially decrease the noise in LIGO’s interferometer mirrors by half, which, through the beautiful laws of geometry and math, would allow them to detect signals from an area of space either times bigger than ever before.

Before that considerable improvement can start making a difference, it must be implemented.  Unfortunately, with the project’s current timelines, it seems the earliest observational run the new coating might be used on will happen only around 2025.  The next campaign, LIGO’s fourth, planned to start in 2022, is too soon to adopt an entirely new coating technology.

Gabriele Vajente - LIGO's lead scientist on the coating project.
Gabriele Vajente – LIGO’s lead scientist on the coating project.
Credit – CalTech

Luckily, the underlying coating technology and test apparatus could be useful in other fields, such as telecommunications and semiconductor manufacturing.  According to David Reitze, the executive director of LIGO, “This is the biggest advance in precision optical coating development for LIGO in the past 20 years”.  Now that is an accomplishment to celebrate.

Learn More:
CalTech – Extending LIGO’s Reach Into the Cosmos
Physical Review Letters – Low Mechanical Loss TiO2:GeO2 Coatings for Reduced Thermal Noise in Gravitational Wave Interferometers
Optica – Low-Noise Optical Coatings Could Swell LIGO’s Reach
Hi Tech Glitz – LIGO receives new mirror coatings to expand its range

Lead Image:
New coating on a sample of glass.
Credit – CalTech

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Green activist hid in Louvre loos before gatecrashing Louis Vuitton’s show

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Marie Cohuet hid in a lavatory inside the Louvre art museum for over two hours, plotting her gatecrashing of Louis Vuitton fashion show in protest at the environmental damage that activists say is caused by the fashion industry.

After edging closer to the show’s entrance as the event neared, Cohuet saw her chance when staff were distracted by the glitzy arrival of actress Catherine Deneuve.

Talking animatedly into her phone, Cohuet pretended to be from the organising team and walked in.

She bided her time until the catwalk parade began to a soundtrack of thunderous organ music and church bells, at which point she unfurled her banner and joined the procession of models under a chandelier-lit runway.

“It was a little bit like taking back power,” the 26-year-old environmental campaigner, a member of the Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth) group, told Reuters of the seconds before she was bundled to the floor by Louis Vuitton’s security agents.

Her banner was scrawled with the slogan “overconsumption = extinction”.

Cohuet said she had taken a stand on Oct. 5 against a fashion industry that fell short on its promises to act against climate change and pushed brands to renew collections faster, and produce more for less cost.

She accused LVMH of having pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions but excluding its sub-contractors from its calculations.

Asked by Reuters to comment, LVMH said its 2030 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than half, announced in April, included those of subcontractors.

Critics say that fast fashion, which replicates catwalk trends and high-fashion designs at breakneck speed, is wasteful, exploits low-paid workers and pollutes the environment, including through intensive use of pesticides to grow cotton.

On the runway, Cohuet’s heart was in her stomach as she stared ahead and passed the gazes of cinema stars, LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault and members of his clan.

“Sometimes an act of civil disobedience is needed, sometimes we need to challenge head-on those who are screwing the planet today, those who are trampling on human rights and social rights,” Cohuet said.

As a teenager at home, she expressed her indignation at the failure of global leaders to act on climate change. It had only been in the past few years that she joined protests, organised petitions and lobbied lawmakers.

Cohuet said she avoided frivolous clothing purchases and air travel but that there was only so much impact an individual could make. Real change must come from governments and leaders of big business, she continued.

Even so, Cohuet holds little hope for meaningful progress at this month’s United Nations COP26  climate change conference summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

“Nice promises get made on paper but then things tend to falter and states fail to turn them into concrete actions,” she said.

 

(Additional reporting by Mimosa Spencer; writing by Richard Lough; editing by Mark Heinricjh)

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Chinese institutions to receive 2nd batch of lunar samples for research – ecns

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China has announced a list of research institutions that are to receive the second batch of lunar samples brought back by its Chang’e-5 mission.

The newly distributed samples, weighing about 17.9 grams, will be divided into 51 lots and handed over to scientists from 17 research institutions, according to a notice issued by the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

Sixteen institutions that are eligible to study the second batch of lunar samples are from the mainland, including Peking University, Tsinghua University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Macau University of Science and Technology is also qualified for using the lunar sample.

According to the notice, the China National Space Administration established a selection commission for the distribution of the samples earlier this month.

The Chang’e-5 probe returned to Earth on Dec. 17, 2020, having retrieved a total of 1,731 grams of lunar samples, mainly rocks and soil from the moon’s surface.

China delivered the first batch of the lunar samples, weighing about 17 grams, to 13 institutions in July.


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SpaceX's SN20 Starship prototype completes its first static fire test – Yahoo Movies Canada

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SpaceX has taken a major step towards sending the Starship to orbit. On Thursday night, the private space corporation has conducted the SN20 Starship prototype’s first static fire test as part of its preparation for the spacecraft’s launch. According to Space, the SN20 is currently outfitted with two Raptor engines: A standard “sea-level” Raptor and a vacuum version designed to operate in space. At 8:16PM Eastern time on Thursday, the company fired the latter. SpaceX then revealed on Twitter that it was the first ever firing of a Raptor vacuum engine integrated onto a Starship.

Around an hour after that, the SN20 lit up yet again in a second static fire test that may have involved both Raptor engines. The SN20 will eventually have six Raptors — three standard and three vacuum — and will be the first prototype to attempt an orbital launch. A Starship launch system is comprised of the Starship spacecraft itself and a massive first-stage booster called the Super Heavy. Both are designed to be reusable and to carry large payloads for trips to low and higher Earth orbits. It can also eventually be used for longer trips to the Moon and to Mars. 

SpaceX doesn’t have a date for the SN20 test flight yet, but the plan is to launch the vehicle with the Super Heavy known as Booster 4 from the company’s Boca Chica site. The booster will splash down in the Gulf of Mexico, while the SN20 will continue its journey towards orbit. 

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