6 December 2017
LIGO Hanford Observatory (LHO) in aerial view. The 4-km interferometer arms are shown with the 5 main buildings along the orthogonal arm layout
(Credit: Advanced LIGO)
An agreement has been signed between India and the UK that will focus on building capacity within India for the LIGO India gravitational wave detector and open the way to closer working between scientists in India and their counterparts in UK universities.
The LIGO India partnership, being funded by the STFC through its Newton-Bhabha project on LIGO, will allow scientists in India to build the third LIGO detector in their country following the original two detectors in the USA. In addition the agreement will upscale their entrepreneurial activity through creating more business spin-offs by using applied gravitational wave research. The programme will also seek to build research capacity through support and training of students and early career researchers as well as facilitate staff exchanges between our countries.
The LIGO India agreement was signed officially at the British Council offices in New Delhi between a consortium of universities in India led by IUCAA (Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics), in Pune, and a consortium of UK universities led by the University of Glasgow.
Professor Giles Hammond, UK lead of the Newton-Bhabha project, who works at the University of Glasgow, said: “The UK has a proven track record in delivering high-quality technology and outreach activities relating to gravitational wave science, including the delivery of key hardware for the LIGO mirror suspensions. A model of sharing knowledge via staff, postdoc and student exchanges to the UK, together with trips to Indian institutes, will strengthen and benefit the UK and Indian academic communities, providing high quality training of the next generation of scientists and engineers.”
This collaborative programme will also enable Indian scientists to work with UK institutes for extended periods of time, with reciprocal visits to the India labs to develop infrastructure and provide onsite training, essential to build the capability to deliver a LIGO-India detector.
The UK consortium of Universities involved in this Newton-Bhabha project (including Glasgow, Birmingham, Cardiff, Sheffield, Southampton, Strathclyde and the University of the West of Scotland) have played a leading part in the international collaboration over decades which eventually led to the detection of gravitational waves.
Professor Somak Raychaudhury, Director of the IUCAA Pune, lead university in the programme in India, said: “With the siting of the 3rd Advanced LIGO detector in India there is an essential need for critically skilled students, postdocs and early career researchers to be trained at the highest level in Gravitational Wave astronomy, for construction of the infrastructure/technology & data pipelines. In turn, the LIGO India project will help the Indian scientific/community to be a major player in the emerging research frontier of GW astronomy.”
Professor Bala Iyer (ICTS, TIFT Bangalore), Council chair of LIGO India, said: “During the course of this Newton fund proposal we aim to work with our colleagues in the UK to build-up key infrastructure within India, to train the next generation of scientists and engineers. This includes the development of a 10m prototype interferometer to test key technologies and future upgrade scenarios to Advanced LIGO. Our vision is to build a connected international network, enabling India to host the most sensitive of the international gravitational wave detectors.”
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Gravitational Waves - ripples in spacetime – give a completely new way to observe the Universe. Since their first detection from the coalescence of a pair of black holes, hailed as the most important scientific breakthrough of the century, the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA have undertaken two observing runs. The most recent run, which also included coincident operation with the VIRGO detector in Cascina Italy, detected further colliding black holes, in addition to the spectacular collision of two neutron stars. This marked the first time that a cosmic event has been viewed in both gravitational waves and light.
LIGO is operated by Caltech and MIT with funding from the USA’s National Science Foundation (NSF), and supported by vital input from more than 1,000 researchers around the world – including the Universities of Glasgow, Cardiff and Birmingham amongst others in the UK.
Scientists from the University of Glasgow’s Institute for Gravitational Research, together with colleagues from Strathclyde, Birmingham and The UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory led on the conception, development, construction and installation of the sensitive mirror suspensions in the heart of the LIGO detectors.
Earlier this year, the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics was announced as being awarded to Professors Kip Thorne, Barry Barish and Rainer Weiss - key figures in detecting the long-theorised ripples in space-time, ‘for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves’.
Financial support for the Advanced LIGO project was led by the NSF with Germany (Max Planck Society), the U.K. (Science and Technology Facilities Council) and Australia (Australian Research Council) making significant commitments and contributions to the project. More than 1,200 scientists and some 100 institutions from around the world participate in the effort through the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian collaboration OzGrav.
More information on Gravitational Waves:
STFC - Gravitational waves: everything you need to know
More about the UK’s involvement in gravitational wave research:
STFC - Working together to ride the gravitational waves