Earthquake interferometer

Link to the demonstrator: in English


Age: >16

Duration: 3 hours

Equipment: PC with internet connection

Contact details

Author: Dr. Valerio Boschi (EGO-Virgo)
Contact: info[at]frontiers-project[dot]eu



Using the data shown in Control (Class)room demonstrator several studies aimed at understanding the relationship between the detector and the environment can be made. The correlation between the sensitivity of the detector and the arrival of strong remote earthquakes can be studied. This allows the students to understand both the nature and propagation speed of seismic waves and at the same time to experience directly how a gravitational interferometer work. Moreover, this activity is very close to the work done day by day by the physicists working on site.

Supplementary materials about the discovery of gravitational waves, the birth of multi-messenger astronomy, the operating principle of the detector and its noises is also given.

Learning outcomes:

  1. Give an idea of the experimental challenges of gravitational wave detection.
  2. Give an idea of the work that physicists do in the Virgo control room.
  3. Let students understand the strong interaction between the environment and the detector.


Prior knowledge:

  • Newtonian Mechanics


Concepts introduced:

  • Gravitational Wave

  • Interferometer
  • Seismic waves & Earthquakes

  • Logarithmic scales
  • Fourier transform

  • Harmonic oscillator

  • Seismic Noise


 Learning intentions:

By the end of this descriptor, students should be able to have an idea of:

  • What are gravitational waves
  • What is a laser interferometer and how it works
  • How earthquakes affect GW interferometers


Key activities:

  1. Slides with pictures and videos to engage
  2. Configure the PC or RPi to show Virgo real time data
  3. Familiarize with the Control Room tools (DMS, VIM, …)
  4. Analysis of the effect of recent earthquakes on the observing range of the detector
  5. Final report and discussion



By the end of this descriptor, students should be able to answer the following:

  1. What are gravitational waves? Why is gravitational wave detection so important?
  2. Why is it so difficult to detect gravitational waves?
  3. Why is ground motion so important for GW detectors?
  4. What are the origins of ground motion?

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