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LIGO Detection

On September 14, 2015 the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington measured ripples in the fabric of spacetime – gravitational waves – generated by the merger of two massive black holes over one billion light years from Earth.

This is the culmination of decades of research and development through a world-wide collaboration of more than one thousand researchers and scientists. It proves a prediction made by Einstein 100 years ago, is the first direct observation of black holes, and the beginning of a new era of gravitational-wave astronomy.

Every day we read the headline news in which ‘Scientist claim …’ and ‘Scientist discover …’ and ‘Scientists report …’ But what does it mean to make an extraordinary claim?

In LIGO Detection we investigate what unfolded between the detection of merging black holes on September 14, and five months later, February 11, 2016 when LIGO announced this extraordinary event to the world.

  • Kai Staats
    "Song of the Stars", "LIGO Generations", "LIGO, A Passion for Understanding", "Monitor Gray"
  • Kai Staats
    "Song of the Stars", "LIGO Generations", "Monitor Gray"
  • Marco Cavaglia
    "LIGO Generations", "LIGO, A Passion for Understanding"
  • Rainer Weiss
    Key Cast
    Professor of Physics, MIT; co-inventor of LIGO
  • Lisa Barsotti
    Key Cast
    Principal Research Scientist at LIGO, MIT
  • Matthew Evans
    Key Cast
    Assistant Professor of Physics, MIT
  • Stanley Whitcomb
    Key Cast
    Chief Scientist, LIGO Laboratory
  • Joshua Smith
    Key Cast
    Associate Professor, California State Fullerton
  • David Reitze
    Key Cast
    Executive Director, LIGO Laboratory
  • Gabriela Gonzalez
    Key Cast
    Spokesperson, LIGO Scientific Collaboration
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    19 minutes 42 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    February 7, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    57,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital, 1080p, 24fps
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Raw Science Film Festival
    Santa Barbara
    United States
    January 6, 2018
    2nd place Professional Documentary
  • Super Geek Film Festival
    Fort Lauderdale
    United States
    January 12, 2018
Distribution Information
  • National Science Foundation
    Country: United States
    Rights: Video on Demand
  • Vimeo
    Country: Worldwide
    Rights: Internet
Director Biography - Kai Staats

Kai Staats, MSc is a filmmaker, lecturer, and professional researcher. His work in film includes sci-fi, human interest, wildlife conservation, and science outreach and education. "LIGO Detection" marks Staats' 3rd film for the gravitational wave observatory that in February of 2016 announced the detection of merging black holes.

In 2016 Staats completed his Masters of Science in Applied Mathematics and is now a visiting scientist at LIGO, the Square Kilometre Array - South Africa, and a professional researcher at Arizona State University.

Staats has recently announced development of a film based on the Mars trilogy by sci-fi author Ben Bova.

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Director Statement

it has been an honour and a privilege to work with LIGO for four years as filmmaker, and now as a visiting scientist. I was incredibly fortunate to have been involved for two years prior to the detection, and subsequently capture that breakthrough on film. This, my third film for LIGO, tells the story of how an international collaboration can achieve what even Einstein himself said was impossible.