The Indian government has approved the construction of a Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory-India (LIGO-India) at Aundh in Maharashtra at a cost of US$320 million. Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the observatory on May 11, 2023.
Touted to be an identical version of the twin LIGO facilities in USA that detected ripples in space and time known as gravitational waves in 2015, LIGO-India when completed will join a global network of gravitational-wave observatories that includes Virgo in Italy and KAGRA in Japan. It will greatly improve the ability of scientists to pinpoint the sky locations of the sources of gravitational waves.
David Reitze, the executive director of the LIGO laboratory at Caltech commented, “We’ve worked very hard over the past few years to bring a LIGO detector to India. Receiving the green light from the Indian government is a very welcome development that will benefit not only India but the entire international gravitational-wave community.”
LIGO-India is a collaboration between the LIGO Laboratory, operated by Caltech and MIT, and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and India’s Raja Ramanna Center for Advanced Technology (RRCAT), Institute for Plasma Research (IPR), Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), and the Department of Atomic Energy Directorate of Construction Services and Estate Management (DCSEM).
Commenting on the collaboration, NSF director Sethuraman Panchanathan said, “Partnering with like-minded nations like India who share our values and aspirations will not only make possible fantastic discoveries but, more importantly, energize talent and unleash innovation everywhere. Utilizing high-tech interferometer components developed by the NSF-funded LIGO collaboration, LIGO-India will augment the existing network of gravitational-wave detectors.”
The planned facility—which, like the LIGO observatories in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana, will include an L-shaped interferometer with 4-kilometre-long arms.