India’s gravitational waves observatory gets Cabinet nod

  • Snehal Rebello, Mumbai
  • Updated: Feb 18, 2016 01:08 IST
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) in US made a breakthrough discovery earlier this month. (Reuters File Photo)

A week after the discovery of gravity waves first postulated by Albert Einstein a century ago, and to which India made a significant contribution, the union cabinet on Wednesday gave an “in principle” nod to set up the world’s their Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory. The other two LIGO detectors are located at Hanford and Livingstone.

Stating that the LIGO-INDIA project will bring “unprecedented opportunities” for scientists, engineers and students in terms of science, technology and knowledge respectively, the official release read, “The approval coincides with the historic detection of gravitational waves a few days ago that opened up of a new window on the universe to unravel some of its greatest mysteries.”

Setting up the groundbased detector assumes significance since it will be form a triangulate with the US detectors,

that will help locate the source of the event that caused a gravitational wave. The US detectors cover an area of the sky equivalent to 2,500 moons. With the India detector, the area will become 100 times smaller.

“We are ecstatic,” said Somak Raychaudhary, director, Inter - University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune. “It’s essential and great for science, and essentially Indian science itself. LIGO can’t be localised. Another detector at the end of the world will give rise to a new subject of gravitational wave astronomy that will give the nature of where the gravitational wave originated from which right now we can only speculate.”

The estimated Rs 1260 crore mega science project that was first floated in 2011 is piloted by Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Science and Technology (DST), in collaboration with the LIGO Laboratory US- based Caltech and MIT.

“It’s fantastic news. Now that the project has been flagged off, we can look forward to the challenges ahead. We’ve done a lot of preliminary work, but now will put a central structure in place to take final decisions on site selection, prototype of systems,” said Tarun Souradeep, scientist, IUCAA, and spokesperson for LIGO-INDIA.

Souradeep added that Memorandum of Understanding with US counterparts will now be signed for creating joint committees.

For the last four years, apart from IUCAA, Raja Ramana Centre for Advanced Technology, Indore, Institute of Plasma Research, Gandhinagar and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata have been involved in the groundwork for the project.

“LIGO-INDIA will be an international science facility on Indian soil. When there are big science projects overseas, Indian students aspire to go abroad. This project on Indian soil probing frontiers of science means a big day for Indian science and students,” said Raychaudhary.

Preliminary seismic and land terrain analysis has been done and shortlisted 22 potential sites are located in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.

“These are exciting times ahead,” professor Anand Sengupta, physics discipline, Indian Institute of Technology – Gandhinagar. “Domain specific field of engineering will get a facelift. We will be able to involve students and researchers from many institutes on the project, and this is the direct effect of the government’s approval.”

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