De Rosa, a physicist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, knows he has a long night ahead of him. He and half a dozen other scientists and engineers are trying to achieve 'full lock' on a major upgrade to the detector — to gain complete control over the infrared laser beams that race up and down two 4-kilometre tunnels at the heart of the facility. By precisely controlling the path of the lasers and measuring their journey in exquisite detail, the LIGO team hopes to observe the distinctive oscillations produced by a passing gravitational wave: a subtle ripple in space-time predicted nearly a century ago by Albert Einstein, but never observed directly.
It's a daunting task, with instrument of such precision, that so many things can contribute to the "noise" being detected. We will just have to wait and see if we will get to detect such gravitational waves anytime soon.