Gravity wave detector: India to tie-up with UK varsities for trained manpower

With India setting up an astronomical observatory to pick up elusive gravity waves, a consortium of Indian institutes has tied up with seven UK-based universities for developing instruments for the detector.

Existence of gravity waves, ripples in the space-time - was predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago, but the first gravity wave signal was spotted only in September 2015. In the last two years, scientists were able to detect only five such signals.

As Indian scientists  face a deadline to build and operationalise a gravity wave detector in India by 2025, one of the major handicaps they face is lack of expertise in designing sophisticated instruments for the detector. That's where the pact with UK institutes will come handy.

The UK varsities partnering Indian institutes include Glasgow, Birmingham, Cardiff, Sheffield, Southampton, Strathclyde and University of West of Scotland. All of them have played a key role in developing the instruments for other gravity wave detectors.

"For instance, the University of Glasgow has expertise in developing the special suspension system for the mirrors that would lie at the core of the detector. Birmingham has the know-how of optical simulation software, whereas Cardiff knows about laser optics," Somak Raychaudhury, director of the Inter-university Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune told DH. IUCAA is spearheading the Indian gravity wave detector project.

In February 2016, the Union Cabinet gave in-principle approval to set up an Indian gravity wave observatory to aid Indian scientists undertake cutting edge research in astronomy. The approval came just a week after the first detection of gravity waves by an international team that includes many Indian scientists.

Newton-Bhabha project

The Indo-UK agreement, signed under the government supported Newton-Bhabha project, will enable Indian scientists to work with UK institutes for an extended period of time, with reciprocal visits to India laboratories to develop infrastructure and provide onsite training that are essential to build the LIGO-India detector.

The 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics winners - pioneering scientists Kip Thorne, Barry Barish and Rainer Weiss made "decisive contribution" in conceptualising and developing the first gravity wave detectors that picked up these feeble signals from a distant corner of the universe.

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