Gravitational waves: Indian institutes pitched in with research

New Delhi: Indian scientists played a crucial role, including in data analysis, in the path-breaking project for the detection of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time, which Albert Einstein predicted a century ago.

Several institutes, including Institute of Plasma Research (IPR) Gandhinagar, Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, and Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT), Indore, were involved in the research.

The announcement of detection of gravitational waves was made simultaneously at IUCAA, Pune, and by scientists in Washington DC, USA. Incidentally, India is also one of countries where an advanced gravitational laboratory is being set up.

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) project operates three gravitational-wave (GW) detectors. Two are in the USA -- at Hanford in the state of Washington in the north-western part of the country, and at Livingston in Louisiana, south-eastern USA.

Currently, these observatories are being upgraded to their advanced configurations (called Advanced LIGO). The proposed LIGO-India project aims to move the 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: IPR, IUCAA and RRCAT.

The LIGO lab would provide the complete design and all the key detector components. Indian scientists would provide the infrastructure for installing the detector at a suitable site and would be responsible for commissioning it. The 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.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today expressed joy over the historic detection of gravitational waves and lauded the role of Indian scientists in the project. "Immensely proud that Indian scientists played an important role in this challenging quest," he tweeted. "Historic detection of gravitational waves opens up new frontier for understanding of universe," he said in a series of posts on the micro-blogging website.

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