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Participants in a program on gravitational waves held at the Raja Ramana Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT), December 2013. (Photo: Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology)

LIGO-India: A Planned Joint India-US Detector

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Skymap showing source localization achievable by LIGO and Virgo. (Credit: Stephen Fairhurst, "Improved source localization with LIGO India")


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The addition of LIGO India will greatly improve source localization (Credit: Stephen Fairhurst, "Improved source localization with LIGO India")

LIGO-India is a collaboration between the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Laboratory (operated by Caltech and MIT) and three Institutes in India – the Raja Ramanna Center for Advanced Technology (Indore), the Institute for Plasma Research (Ahmedabad), and the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (Pune). These three institutions bring the complementary skills and resources needed the success of the project.

The scientific goals of the project are in the area of astronomy and fundamental physics. Gravitational waves are predicted as an essential element of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. The strongest sources of gravitational waves are among the enigmatic objects in our universe: black holes, neutron stars, supernovae, even the Big Bang. Extracting the information carried by the waves to address questions in both physics and astronomy depends on our ability to identify where the individual sources are on the sky. This requires a network of detectors spread widely over the Earth. LIGO operates two sites in the United States and collaborates with a similar detector in Italy (Virgo). Together they can triangulate sources over part of the sky. LIGO-India will enable scientists to locate sources over the entire sky. The ellipses on the sky maps below show how much more accurately sources can be found with LIGO-India. The dramatic improvement with LIGO-India is the key scientific motivation for this project.

The project will benefit India in other ways as well. The first detection of gravitational waves will be one of the highest profile scientific discoveries of our time. Engaging the Indian scientific community in this quest will raise the visibility and appeal of experimental science in India. The presence of a world-leading facility in India can be used to attract students and inspire them to pursue technical careers. Finally, the physical measurements required for gravitational wave detection are arguably the most precise ever made, and they involve cutting edge technologies that have many non-military applications.

Each side of project makes significant financial and intellectual contributions:

  • The LIGO Laboratory will provide the hardware for a complete LIGO interferometer, technical data on its design, installation and commissioning, training and assistance with installation and commissioning, and the requirements and designs for the necessary infrastructure (including the vacuum system). The components for the LIGO-India detector have already been fabricated as a part of the Advanced LIGO project, funded by the National Science Foundation.
  • India will provide the site, the vacuum system and other infrastructure required to house and operate the interferometer, and all labor, materials and supplies for installation, commissioning and operations. Funding for the LIGO-India facilities will come from the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST), with DAE acting as the lead agency.

Once it becomes operational, LIGO-India will be scientifically managed and operated in collaboration with the US LIGO detectors to optimize the scientific return.