Gravitational wave observatory soon

Global astronomy facility project awaits Prime Minister Narendra Modi's approval

Gravitational wave observatory soon

A Rs 1,260-crore proposal to set up a largescale experimental facility in central India for detecting an elusive wave, predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago, is awaiting the approval of the Narendra Modi cabinet.

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO) — to be built in collaboration with United States which includes import of equipment worth $ 80 million — will be constructed over 300 acres. It will be a L-shaped detector, each arm of which will be 4 km long.

“Three sites were shortlisted in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. It will add to a global network of gravity wave detectors,” Tarun Sourdeep, a scientist at the Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune and spokesperson of the LIGO-India consortium, told Deccan Herald here.

In 2012, US National Science Board, with the concurrence of National Science Foundation, gave the nod for shifting one of proposed US gravitational wave detectors at Hanford, Washington, to an Indian site.

The Department of Atomic Energy subsequently approached the government with the Rs 1,200-crore proposal spanning over three plan periods.

The LIGO will not only open up a fresh window to study astronomy, but being a part of the global network, it would enhance the chances of detecting very feeble gravity waves, whose existence is scientifically proven. Other detectors in the network are in the US, Europe and Japan.

When sanctioned, LIGO will be the third global astronomy facilities that involve India as a partner nation. They are Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which is a gigantic radio telescope and Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT), a large optical telescope under construction in Hawaii. In August 2014, India joined the SKA project with a commitment of 6 per cent contribution to the first phase of the project worth €650 million.

The National Centre for Radio Astronomy, Pune, is the lead agency for developing the SKA telescope manager (hardware and software package to control the telescope). “We have submitted the telescope manager document. It will be reviewed later this week,” NCRA scientist Yashwant Gupta said at the ongoing 102 session of the Indian Science Congress here.

The SKA comprises 3,000 dishes spread in two locations in western Australia and South Africa and will be 30 times more powerful than GMRT, India's biggest radio telescope near Pune. The government had sanctioned Rs 1,300 crore to the TMT. 

To be constructed at a cost of $ 1.47 billion, the TMT will be located at Mauna Kea, Hawaii. India’s contribution is 10 per cent of the total project cost, which is being shared by the US, Canada, Japan and China.

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