Indian Observatory To Help LIGO Study Supernova And Gravitational Waves

NASA's Hubble space telescope captures supernova's light echo

The role of India in studying a supernova and gravitational waves will increase with the setup of a new gravitational wave observatory in the state of Maharashtra.

David Reitze, who is the executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, expects the Indian observatory to be functional by 2025.

Gravitational Waves

Gravitational waves are ripples in the space-time fabric, which are the results of some of the most energetic and violent processes in the cosmos like the merger of neutron stars or black holes. After detecting gravitational waves successfully for the third time, LIGO wants to expand its reach within the universe.

According to Reitze, there are binary neutron stars and binary black holes, so, there would be a neutron star and black hole merger, and LIGO wants to discover that. The present LIGO detectors are not very supernova-sensitive because a very tiny amount of energy is released by a supernova in a gravitational wave. It measures only around a billionth of what a black hole merger emits.

The present LIGO detectors are sensitive to about 3 billion light-years for binary black holes and 280-300 million light-years away for binary neutron stars. Improving the sensitivity of the observational detectors can enable them to get data from even farther regions in space.

Now, the researchers at LIGO hope to make the detectors at least 30-40 percent more sensitive because that can make a big difference. LIGO also hopes to detect tens of binary neutron stars by 2020 and around 100 black holes.

"If you improve sensitivity by a factor of two, you improve the range of where you can see the source by two, you make the volume eight times bigger (cube of the distance), which can increase the rate of detection," Reitze said.

India's Role

Having a detector in India is going to improve LIGO's ability to localize celestial events. It means, with more detectors present in different parts of the planet, it will be easier to observe the sky more accurately.

At present, several physicists from the International Center for Theoretical Sciences, which is based in the Indian city of Bengaluru, already play an active role in the LIGO project.

LIGO's last detection in August 2017 had seen contributions from telescopes based around the globe. LIGO is now trying to move to a model that is much more open, where when signals are observed, it first wants to ensure that it is a good signal. To facilitate the detection, LIGO will send the information to anyone who needs it, including researchers in India.

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