LIGO Hanford breaks ground on new exploration center

LIGO Hanford Groundbreaking
Courtesy: LIGO Hanford

RICHLAND, Wash. — Construction on a new exploration center at the LIGO Hanford Observatory is underway.

LIGO held a groundbreaking earlier this month for the new, state-of-the-art facility expected to open to the public in January of 2022.

“It will connect the science of LIGO…to people in our community that will come through the doors and learn about not just cutting edge science but also STEM careers in an experiential and hands-on setting,” said Michael Landry, head of LIGO Hanford, in a virtual groundbreaking video compiled by the observatory.

LIGO stands for “Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory”. It is the world’s largest gravitational wave observatory. LIGO Hanford is one of two detectors making up LIGO.

LIGO Hanford

Courtesy: LIGO Hanford

According to Amber Strunk, education and public outreach lead at LIGO Hanford, they host 3,000 to 4,000 K-12 students a year.

“We wanted to reach and inspire even more students of all ages,” she said in a press release. “Our experiential science center will support STEM education in the region by providing opportunities for teachers, students, and families.”

The new exploration center was designed by Terence L. Thornhill architects and will be built by DGR Grant Construction. It is expected to host up to 10,000 students each year in addition to community members.

Funded by a $7.7 million grant, the LIGO Exploration Center will include 50 interactive exhibits and other educational display items, including a gold-plated 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics.

RELATED: LIGO scientists win Nobel Prize in Physics

The grant for the project, which came from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, was facilitated by Washington State Senator Sharon Brown.

“LIGO is one of the few STEM research facilities in the country where students can get up front and actually see, touch and feel what the scientists are doing,” said Sen. Brown in the virtual groundbreaking video.

To learn more about LIGO, click here.