India to house world’s third gravitational wave observatory

  • Snehal Rebello, Hindustan Times, Pune
  • Updated: Feb 12, 2016 11:57 IST
One of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory test masses in a 4-element suspension system. (REUTERS)

India will house world’s third Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory (LIGO-India) to detect gravitational waves, similar to the two detectors in the US. Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh are among the states shortlisted for the experiment.

Read more: Hawking thrilled with gravitational wave discovery, PM lauds India role

By 2022, India will be one of the countries, including the US, Italy and Japan, to play a major role in understanding Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Even as a final cabinet nod is awaited, soon after the announcement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Hope to make an even bigger contribution with an advanced gravitational-wave detector in the country.”

The government will have to fund the Rs 1,260-crore observatory project over 15 years. The Planning Commission has cleared the project, which has been studied by the department of atomic energy and the department of science and technology.

General relativity explained gravity in terms of the curvature of four-dimensional spacetime, and predicted the existence of black holes. The observatory will help spot more gravity waves, the discovery of which will prove general relativity beyond doubt.

Read more: Ripples in space time: Gravitational waves ‘seen’ from black hole

The US has two observatories known as the LIGO, while Italy has the third called the Virgo Interferometer and Japan is constructing another one.

Read more: Einstein’s most important theory is true: What you need to know

If the Indian observatory — LIGO-India — materialises, the country will join the global network of gravitational wave detectors. Establishing an observatory in India assumes importance because the further the distance between the observatories, the greater will be the accuracy in locating gravity waves.

“Without LIGO-India, we can’t locate where the event happened. Therefore, three identical telescopes are needed, said professor Tarun Souradeep, of the Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune.

The Indian Institute of Plasma Research in Gandhi Nagar is among the lead institutes to build components for the Indian detector for central data acquisition and control for the futuristic machine.

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