India signs MoU to set up LIGO observatory

India signs MoU to set up LIGO observatory

Washington (ISJ) ? New Delhi on Thursday (March 31) formally signed an agreement to set up Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) in India. The agreement was signed by Dr. France Cordova, Director, US National Science Foundation, and Dr. Sekhar Basu, Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy in the presence of visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Modi also met a team of scientists from the Observatory in Washington DC. The team led by Dr. Cordova, included three young Indian scientists, who have worked on the project. Dr. Cordova told Modi, India?s participation is extremely important for the future of the LIGO project.

Indian government had given its approval to build an Advanced LIGO Observatory in the country in February 17, 2016, a week after the announcement of the first observation of gravitational waves arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe, validating the theory of relativity of Albert Einstein in 1915. Gravitational waves ? ripples in the fabric of space and time produced by dramatic events in the universe, like merging black holes, carry information about their origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained.

Three nodal institutes in India have been given the primary responsibility for construction and operation of LIGO India ? Institute for Plasma Research (IPR) Gandhinagar, Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT) Indore and Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune.

[caption id="attachment_1716" align="alignright" width="300"]Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets LIGO scientists in Washington Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets LIGO scientists in Washington[/caption]

RRCAT have designed a special testing/prototype facility for receiving Advanced LIGO parts. They have also been training the teams that will install and commission the detector and are currently cross-checking the IPR vacuum-system drawings against the Advanced LIGO detector drawings, to ensure a good fit and rapid installation for the third Advanced LIGO detector. IUCAA scientists have been setting up a computing centre for current and future data. This would make it possible for India to carry the project forward rapidly.

?It is technically feasible for LIGO-India to go online by the end of 2013,? said Fred Raab, head of the LIGO Hanford Observatory. ?Together, we have identified an excellent site for the facilities and have transferred detailed LIGO drawings of the facilities and vacuum system to IPR, after adapting them for conditions in India.?

LIGO will provide Indian researchers with the components and training to build and run the new Advanced LIGO detector, which will then be operated by the Indian team.

?LIGO-India will further expand the international network that started with the partnership between LIGO and Virgo, which operates a detector near Pisa, Italy,? said Stanley Whitcomb, LIGO chief scientist. ?With LIGO-India added to the network, we will not only detect more sources, we will dramatically increase the number of sources that can be pinpointed so that they can be studied using other types of telescopes.?

LIGO-India is the second high-tech science lab being set up in India in the recent times, the first being India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) in Tamil Nadu ? a particle physics research project to study atmospheric neutrinos. INO is a multi-institute collaboration and one of the biggest experimental particle physics projects undertaken by India. Once completed, the main magnetised iron calorimeter (ICAL) experiment include the world?s most massive magnet ? four times larger than the 12,500-tonne magnet in the Compact Muon Solenoid detector at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.

Image credit: XP Division, Indian Ministry of External Affairs


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