Washington: With the Indian government giving in-principle approval for establishing a state-of- the-art LIGO interferometer in the country, a top US scientist has said it is "technically feasible" for the project to be operational by the end of 2023.
"It is technically feasible for LIGO-India to go online by the end of 2023," said Fred Raab, head of the LIGO Hanford Observatory and LIGO Laboratory liaison for LIGO-India.
Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) scientists have made dozens of trips to India to work with Indian colleagues, especially with the three nodal institutes that would have primary responsibility for construction and operation of LIGO India -- Institute of Plasma Research (IPR) Gandhinagar, Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, and Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT), Indore.
"Together, we have identified an excellent site for the facilities and have transferred detailed LIGO drawings of the facilities and vacuum system to IPR, after adapting them for conditions in India," he said.
The Union Cabinet on February 17, gave its approval in the wake of the announcement of LIGO's detection of gravitational waves earlier this month.
"This is the step that we've been waiting for. It will allow funding for the LIGO-India project to begin, and commence a number of critical path activities toward getting a detector built in India," said LIGO Laboratory Executive Director David Reitze.
"Coming on the heels of the Discovery announcement, this has truly been an historic week for LIGO and for the field of gravitational wave astronomy," he said.
The project will build an Advanced LIGO Observatory in India, a move that will significantly improve the ability of scientists to pinpoint the sources of gravitational waves and analyze the signals, a statement said.
Gravitational waves ripples in the fabric of space and time, produced by dramatic events in the universe such as merging black holes and predicted as a consequence of Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity, carry information about their origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained.
With their first direct detection, announced on February 11, scientists opened a new window onto the cosmos.
The twin LIGO Observatories at Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana, are funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF), and were conceived, built, and are operated by Caltech and MIT.
Advanced LIGO -- a major upgrade to the sensitivity of the instruments compared to the first generation LIGO detectors -- began scientific operations in September 2015.
Funded in large part by the NSF, Advanced LIGO enabled a large increase in the volume of the universe probed, leading to the discovery of gravitational waves during its first observation run.