Training to scientists in gravitational astronomy

The International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS) in Hesaraghatta intends to train scientists in gravitational astronomy so that when the LIGO gravitational wave detector proposed to be set up in India is ready there will be a community of researchers who can use the facility.

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) came into the public eye when two such existing observatories in the USA detected gravitational waves, confirming a 100-year-old theory by Albert Einstein.

Several researchers from ICTS were even involved in the large-scale international collaboration which resulted in the discovery, which eventually won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2017.

P Ajith, one of the faculty at ICTS who leads the work in this area, said: "While building the facility itself is a challenge, we also need to develop a community which will be able to use this data to do science."

Towards this effort, ICTS has been organising annual summer programmes since 2013 for graduate students to learn about gravitational astronomy.

Speaking at a press conference to highlight achievements of the institute which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, Rajesh Gopakumar, the centre's director said that science programmes in Bengaluru attract a lot of attention and interest from the public.

"We have several outreach programmes and public lectures, including ones at the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium. There is a hunger for science in the city, even among 11-year-olds. A lot of interesting questions are asked and even the speakers are stumped by them," he said.

The sessions get a good response even on social media where they are live-streamed.

In the coming years, the ICTS intends to encourage scientific research in areas which are less developed in the country.

The centre conducts several programmes where scientists from different backgrounds such as Theoretical Physics, Astronomy, Mathematics and others can interact and collaborate.

Spenta Wadia, founder director of the institute, said that a request to the state government asking for more land to create new facilities was still pending.

"We need an additional five acres of land close to the existing campus for more hostels and other infrastructure. We requested for it about three to four years ago and there was a recommendation from the Department of IT, BT to give us the land but there has been no progress on that," he said.

As part of its 'ICTS at ten' programmes, several public events have been planned including a lecture on January 11 at the centre, by Nobel Prize for Physics 2017 winner, Prof Kip Thorne from Caltech, US.

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