LIGO India likely to be commissioned in 2024

Kolkata, Jan 17 : The LIGO India project is likely to be commissioned in 2024 and its activities would require Indian universities churning out young researchers trained in the science to take up the mantle of exploration of the universe, an official of the international collaboration said here on Tuesday.

“We hope by 2024 a crew of Indian PhDs trained in the science will be commissioning those machines and beginning first observations,” said Fred Raab, associate director for operations, LIGO Laboratory (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory).

At a lecture on ‘LIGO-India: International Collaboration Coming to India to Help Explore the Universe’ at the Presidency University here, Raab said the proposed India-based observatory will “refine the physics” of gravitational waves detection and exploration of the universe.

India is poised to set up world’s third advanced LIGO. The project operates three gravitational-wave (GW) detectors. Two are at Hanford in the state of Washington, north-western US, and one is at Livingston in Louisiana, south-eastern US.

The proposed LIGO-India project aims to move one Advanced LIGO detector from Hanford to India.

“The effect will be dramatic because it will give us tremendous location information on where the (gravitational waves) sources are. You turn on the detector in India and everywhere in the sky you can pinpoint the sources much better,” explained Raab, who served as the head of the LIGO Hanford Observatory.

However, to what extent the activities succeed depends on availability of trained scientists.

“We have opened up this vast new frontier but how well this is explored will depend on raising up in Indian universities, a generation of experimental scientists who will pursue the advancement of these detectors,” he said.

Dubbing the detectors as “devilishly complex” and “the most sensitive measuring devices on earth”, Raab said the intent is that “LIGO India will be equally sensitive” as the other detectors.

LIGO research is carried out by the international LIGO Scientific Collaboration (which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy) and the Virgo Collaboration in Europe.

LIGO India will be set up as a joint scientific collaboration between LIGO laboratories of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the US, and three lead Indian institutions, namely, the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, Institute for Plasma Research (IPR), Gandhinagar, and Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT), Indore.