Green light for gravitational wave detector in India

22 February 2016

Gravitational Waves research building

University scientists play crucial role in securing new gravitational wave detector for India

A brand new gravitational wave detector has been approved in India after crucial support and guidance was given by a group of researchers at Cardiff University – this comes less than a week after it was announced that gravitational waves had been detected for the very first time.

The Gravitational Physics Group at Cardiff University played a critical role in getting the new detector through the approval process, having developed and written the science case and defended the proposal in front of the US National Science Foundation, who have agreed to transfer some of the key technology – initially proposed for a third detector in the US – over to India.

The Indian Government has approved the LIGO-India project ‘in principle’ and will set out to build the new detector to complement the LIGO detectors already in place in Washington and Louisiana in the US. Proposed by the Indian Initiative in Gravitational-Wave Observations (IndIGO), the project will be lead by Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Indian Plasma Research (IPR) Institute and Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT).

With most of the key technology currently in place, estimates suggest that the LIGO-India detector could start collecting results in around eight years’ time.

In addition to the Advanced VIRGO detector in Italy and a separate detector being built in Japan (KAGRA), this will provide a truly worldwide network of gravitational wave detectors.  Work done at Cardiff University has shown that this global network will allow us to pinpoint the location of gravitational wave signals much more accurately, allowing astronomers to image the events with telescopes on the ground and in space.  These joint observations will shed new light on the origin of the cataclysmic events that produce gravitational waves.

Professor B.S. Sathyaprakash, from Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “It is thrilling to see funding coming on the heels of a great discovery. LIGO India will open a new chapter not only for Indian science but also for gravitational astronomy. With a worldwide network of detectors we will be able to keep a constant watch on the sky.”

Caltech’s David Reitze, research professor and executive director of LIGO, said: “With this announcement, India is telling the world that it intends to play a leading a role in gravitational wave astronomy in the coming decade.  I am delighted that they have taken this action."

Dr Stephen Fairhurst, also from the School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “The LIGO-India detector will be a vital addition to the global network.  It will significantly improve our ability to localize sources on the sky, enabling satellites and telescopes to search for counterparts to gravitational wave signals. ”

Professor Bala Iyer, chair of the IndIGO consortium, said: “My group has worked closely with Prof Sathyaprakash for over two decades on a variety of topics and made significant contributions to the detection of gravitational waves. Interaction with the Cardiff group during my visits was an invaluable learning experience for me, which was critical when I took on roles of the Chair of IndIGO and Principal Investigator of IndIGO-LSC.”