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Mystery Solved

How ravens caused a LIGO data glitch

The birds used ice on a pipe as a thirst quencher

By
3:00pm, April 18, 2018

RAVEN RASCAL  Avian offenders like this raven caused a glitch in LIGO’s data by pecking at ice that built up on a pipe.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — 

While the data was amassing, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of something gently rapping, rapping at LIGO’s door.

The source of a mysterious glitch in data from a gravitational wave detector has been unmasked: rap-tap-tapping ravens with a thirst for shaved ice. At the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, in the desert of Hanford, Wash., scientists noticed a signal that didn’t look like gravitational waves, physicist Beverly Berger said on April 16 at a meeting of the American Physical Society.

A microphone sensor that monitors LIGO’s surroundings caught the sounds of pecking birds on tape in July 2017, Berger, of the LIGO Laboratory at Caltech, said. So the crew went out to the end of one of the detector’s 4-kilometer-long arms to check for

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