A century after Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves, Indian scientists are joining researchers around the world to update the scientific community on efforts to detect the elusive phenomenon.
The excitement is palpable, but such is the level of secrecy that only a few core members at the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCCA) here know about the discovery — that gravitational waves may have been detected, a finding that would set off ripples across the global scientific community.
“We are bound by an international embargo. At this time we can only say that what will be announced on February 11 is even more important than the discovery of Higgs Boson, which caught global attention,” Somak Raychaudhury, director of IUCAA, said.
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More than a dozen senior scientists and researchers from across the country — including Dr K Kasturirangan, Dr Anil Kakodkar, Dr Srikumar Banerjee and A S Kiran Kumar — and policymakers have been invited for the briefing at IUCAA’s Chandrashekhar Auditorium on Thursday.
“This is an exciting time but we have held our cards close to our chest,” said one of the scientists at IUCAA. Not surprisingly, just a few of the 17 faculty members are aware of the discovery while post-doctoral graduates and students carry on with routine work.
Scientists explained that the existence of gravitational waves has been one of the most intriguing predictions of General Theory of Relativity proposed by Einstein in 1915. Gravitational waves are distortions in the spacetime geometry that propagate with the speed of light, analogous to ripples on the surface of a pond. Although indirect evidence for the existence of gravitational waves is obtained from the observation of binary pulsars, a direct detection of gravitational waves is yet to be done. The worldwide network of gravitational wave detectors had started an exciting search for these ripples in spacetime. On Thursday, scientists in India and their US counterparts will announce whether the search been able to detect gravitational waves.
Indian researchers working with IndIGO Consortium (Indian Initiative in Gravitational-wave Observations) are part of the international commitment to detect gravitational waves using Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO).