LIGO: Civil Services Mentor Magazine - April - 2016


Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) project operates three gravitational-wave (GW) detectors. Two are at Hanford in the state of Washington, north-western USA, and one is at Livingston in Louisiana, south-eastern USA. Currently these observatories are being upgraded to their advanced configurations (called Advanced LIGO). LIGO’s mission is to open the field of gravitational-wave astrophysics through the direct detection of gravitational waves. LIGO is a national facility for gravitational-wave research, providing opportunities for the broader scientific community to participate in detector development, observations and data analysis.

LIGO is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and operated by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Other countries like Australia, Germany and United Kingdom has given financial support to LIGO’s detectors. LIGO detectors are available for use by members of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC), comprised of researchers in partner institutions around the world.

LIGO’s detector will help in looking the universe in a totally new way. Recently on feb 11 the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration (LSC) made a historic announcement of the discovery of gravitational waves. The Executive Director of the LIGO Laboratory, after making the announcement said, that this is just the beginning. We will see the universe in completely new way. For most of the history we have observed universe only through the optical telescopes. Optical telescopes that looked at celestial objects either by the visible light that they emitted or by the light that was scattered off them. With advances in technology, the universe began to be observed using different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. Observational windows in radio waves, infrared and ultraviolet rays, X-rays and gamma rays opened up, and many terrestrial and space-based instruments have enabled scientists to gain new insights into the working of the universe. Now, the discovery of gravitational waves opens up an entirely new paradigm in observational astronomy.

  • Indian groups contributed significantly to the historic search for gravitational waves. Under the umbrella of the Indian Initiative in Gravitational-Wave Observations (IndIGO), includes scientists from CMI Chennai, ICTS-TIFR Bangalore, IISER Kolkata, IISER Trivandrum, IIT Gandhinagar, IPR Gandhinagar, IUCAA Pune, RRCAT Indore and TIFR Mumbai.

Major contributions by the Indians include;

  • Members of the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS) of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) are part of the LIGO international collaboration and have contributed significantly in this discovery.

  • High performance computing facilities at IUCAA, Pune and ICTS, Bengaluru did the job of Bounding the orbital eccentricity and estimating the mass and spin of the final black hole.

  • The group, led by Bala Iyer at the Raman Research Institute in collaboration with scientists in France, had pioneered the mathematical calculations used to model gravitational wave signals from orbiting black holes and neutron stars.

There is also a proposal to setup LIGO-India project. The proposed LIGO-India project aims to move one Advanced LIGO detector from Hanford to India. LIGO-India project is envisaged as an international collaboration between the LIGO Laboratory and three lead institutions in the IndIGO consortium: Institute of Plasma Research (IPR) Gandhinagar, Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune and Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT), Indore. LIGO lab would provide the complete design and all the key detector components. Indian scientists would provide the infrastructure to install the detector at a suitable site in India and would be responsible for commissioning it. The proposed observatory would be operated jointly by IndIGO and the LIGO-Lab and would form a single network along with the LIGO detectors in USA and Virgo in Italy.

Along with reading the universe there are also various other benefits which LIGO project will provide. Its benefits will range from scientific invention to major impact on Indian science, industry and education. Majority of the befits of LIGO-India include;

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