VIRGO Sees First Light!
    Contributed by Albert Lazzarini

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The VIRGO Observatory in Cascina, Italy

LIGO has just received information that on 13 March 2003, a major milestone was achieved by VIRGO, the gravitational-wave observatory located in Cascina, Italy.

The VIRGO team was able to propagate a 10mW collimated beam from the power recycling window placed between the power recycling and input optics bench towers, through the 3-km long tube, up to the northeast transmission window. The laser light spot was visible on a screen placed behind the tower. This is the first light transmitted over three kilometers.

First light along the full length of VIRGO's 3-km North Arm is a major milestone achievement. This, along with another recent milestone of having reached high vacuum (10E-6 mbar) in the whole North Arm, marks two momentous occasions, not only for VIRGO but for the entire field of gravitational-wave research.

Soon there will be two, operational, kilometer-scale interferometers in Europe. The global array grows!

The members of the LIGO Laboratory wish to offer our sincere congratulations to all the VIRGO and EGO teams on this outstanding accomplishment.