India, US sign MoU for setting up LIGO project

Washington(PTI): India and the US on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for setting up a new Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) in India that will play significant role in carrying forward frontline research on various aspects of gravitational wave astronomy.

The MoU comes about a month after the Union Cabinet approved the construction of the long-awaited third LIGO interferometer.

Department of Atomic Energy Secretary Sekhar Basu and the US’ National Science Foundation (NSF) France Cordova signed the MoU in this regard in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Modi, who is currently in the US to attend the two-day Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), met scientists of LIGO who recently proved gravitational waves theory. He also interacted with the Indian scientists who are part of the LIGO project.

Prime Minister described the LIGO project as a great example of India-US scientific collaboration and said the success of this project could well inspire an entire young generation of Indian scientists.

He urged the Indian scientists who are part of the LIGO project to interact with Indian students and visit Indian universities, as much as possible.

The Cabinet, he said, has already approved USD1200 crores for the project.

“Now that India has decided to be part of the project, the possibility is that India would be central to the LIGO project, partly on account of the fact that geography favors us,” External Ministry Spokesman Vikas Swarup told reporters. “It would come up hopefully in the next five to seven years,” Swarup said.

Cordova explained how India was extremely important for the future of the LIGO project.

“Today is an exciting day because it offers the promise of deepening our understanding and opening an even wider window to our universe. This MOU is the first step toward an additional gravitational wave detector, located in India,” Cordova said.

“With this new commitment to collaboration, NSF’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (better known as LIGO), and its hundreds of associated scientists worldwide, are positioned to take this nascent field of gravitational wave science to the next level,” he said.

“Once in place, a third detector would be able to ‘triangulate’ the source of gravitational waves and thus make other, more detailed observations,” he added.

“We look forward to working closely with our Indian colleagues in this endeavor to further our knowledge of the most energetic phenomena in the cosmos,” Cordova said.

The construction of the long-awaited third LIGO interferometer, expected to be functional by 2023, will significantly improve the ability of scientists to pinpoint the sources of gravitational waves and analyse the signals.

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