WITHIN A week of the landmark detection of gravitational waves by a US-based observatory, the Centre on Wednesday approved a four-year-old proposal to build a similar observatory in India.
The LIGO-India (Laser Interferometer Gravitation-wave Observatory in India) project will complement the efforts of the two US-based LIGO facilities that detected the gravitational waves for the first time last week, almost exactly 100 years after Albert Einstein had postulated their existence while formulating his General Theory of Relativity. Scientists have called the detection of gravitational waves as one of the biggest scientific achievements of all time.
Einstein had proposed that gravitational attraction was not because of any mysterious force acting on two bodies, as Issac Newton had proposed a few centuries ago, but rather was a result of the bending of the fabric of space-time caused by the mass of the objects. The phenomenon could be visualised in a situation in which a large ball is placed on a rubber sheet, creating a curvature around it. A smaller ball, rolled on the rubber sheet, rotates around the large ball along the curvature before falling into it. Einstein said the Sun, Earth and all other bodies formed similar curvatures around them, and this was the reason for smaller objects getting pulled towards them.
He had also proposed that the movement of such massive objects in space-time should also create ripples just like a moving boat creates ripples in water. Einstein called these ripples gravitational waves.
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Gravitational waves could not be detected until now because of the extremely complicated and precise instrumentation that was required.
LIGO-India is proposed to be almost an exact replica of the US observatories. A statement from Pune-based Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), which is playing a lead role in the LIGO-India project, said India’s geographical location was ideal for the construction of another observatory.