Scientists to test land for LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory)

• The Environment Ministry has allowed scientists to test the suitability of land in Maharashtra’s Hingoli district to host the India wing of the ambitious Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) project. This is a key step to establishing the one-of-its-kind astronomical observatory.

• The project involves constructing a network of L-shaped arms, each four kilometers long, which can detect even the faintest ripples from cosmic explosions missions of light years away.

• The discovery of gravitational waves earned three US scientists the Nobel for physics in 2017. The scientists were closely involved with LIGO. Hosting such a detector in India, scientists have said, will improve the odds of detecting more such phenomena.

• However, the construction of such a large, sensitive device – there are only three of its kind in the world – required an extremely flat surface.

• The LIGO-India consortium, made up of physics from several institutes, had submitted a proposal to ‘prospect’ 121 hectares of forest land in Dudhala village, Hingoli.

• The LIGO project will check if the land can be made perfectly level at a reasonable cost.

• The LIGO project operates three gravitational wave detectors. Two are at Hanford in the state of Washington, USA, and one is at Livingston in Louisiana, USA. Currently, these observatories are being upgraded to their advanced configurations.

• The proposed LIGO India project aims to move one Advanced LIGO detector from Hanford to India. The LIGO India project is an international collaboration between the LIGO Laboratory and three lead institutions in the LIGO India consortium: Institute of Plasma Research, Gandhinagar, IUCAA, Pune and Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology, Indore.

• The LIGO lab would provide the complete design and all the key detector components. Indian scientists would provide the infrastructure to install the detector and it would be operated jointly by LIGO India and the LIGO Lab.

• The project, piloted by the Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Science and Technology, reportedly costs Rs 1200 crore and is expected to be ready by 2025.

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