India is all set to add another feather to its cap. The site for the proposed LIGO India project, an advanced gravitational wave observatory has been finalized. To be operational by 2024, India has the honour for setting up the world’s third LIGO observatory. Currently, USA houses two observatories – Hanford in Washington and the other in Livingston in Louisiana operated by CalTech and MIT. The two sites identified for the project are Udaipur in Rajasthan and Hingoli in Maharashtra. With a budget of Rs 1,260 crore earmarked and a nod from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Indian LIGO project will open up avenues of research in space matter and energy by tracking cosmic gravitational waves.
For the uninitiated, Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is a massive gravitational wave observatory consisting of two laser interferometers placed thousands of kilometers apart to make use of light and space to detect gravitational waves.
The ground-breaking LIGO-India project that will refine the “understanding of black holes and why they occur” will be carried out in collaboration with several international partners Australia, UK and Germany. The proposed LIGO project will also reportedly move one advanced LIGO detector from Hanford to India.
Astronaut Today lists down how the path-breaking scientific endeavor will impact Indian scientific community:
- This large scale physics experiment and observatory is a step in the direction of gravitational wave astronomy
- Lead to a new breed of young researchers in advanced physics, gravitational physics, cosmology, computational sciences, and mathematics and in engineering
- Spawn academic-industry partnerships and lead to more job opportunities
- The LIGO-India project will serve as a research facility for the international community
The Indian LIGO project will be a collaboration between California Institute of Technology (CalTech) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and three Indian universities Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, Institute for Plasma Research (IPR), Gandhinagar, and Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT), Indore.
What goes into the making of LIGO?
Seismic isolation system is aimed at eliminating vibrations that fall under two categories – active and passive damping system. Since LIGO is sensitive to the smallest motions and fleeting vibrations such as the ones caused by speeding trucks on a nearby road, seismic isolation system is the defense system to remove these environmental noises. In a way, it works likes a noise-cancelling headphone.
Vaccum: LIGO comprises of one of the largest vacuums on earth with the atmospheric pressure that equals one-trillionth that of air pressure at sea level. The vaccum functions to eliminate any dust that will deflect on the laser. Another reason for building a high-quality vacuum is to remove any air in the path of laser that could potentially mask gravitational waves.
Optics System: The optic system comprises of a 200 watt laser beam that helps in detecting gravitational waves.
Mirrors: The pure fuse silica glass mirrors weighing up to 40 kg can absorb one in 3 million photons that hit them, which means they are able to reflect most of the light that hits them. The mirrors are used to refocus the laser so that it can travel without interruptions and maintains the stability of laser light.