The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) -India mega-science project would establish a state-of-the-art gravitational wave interferometric Advanced LIGO detector in India in collaboration with LIGO Laboratory USA. LIGO-India is an Indo-US joint collaboration. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to this effect has been signed between the Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Science & Technology in India and the National Science Foundation of USA on Mar 31, 2016.

The LIGO-India mega-science project proposal has been granted in principle approval of the Union Cabinet on February 17, 2016. The project will be jointly funded by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science & Technology (DST). The following important steps have been undertaken by the government:

On March 31, 2016, in Washington DC USA, DAE and DST of India jointly signed a MoU with the US National Science Foundation (NSF) to lead the way for establishing an advanced gravitational-wave detector in India. The MoU was jointly signed by the NSF Director Dr. France A. Cordova and the DAE secretary Dr Sekhar Basu (pre-signed by DST Secretary Dr Ashutosh Sharma) in the presence of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.

A Joint Oversight Group (JOG) has also been constituted with members from NSF and DAE-DST to oversee the execution of the project on behalf of the three funding agencies.

The DAE, which will steer the execution of the project, has constituted a Project Management Board and Scientific Management Board for LIGO-India.

The LIGO-India site selection committee setup by the DAE has submitted its report to Secretary DAE identifying the primary site and possible back up sites for LIGO-India in September 2016. The LIGO-India site selection effort technically studied 39 site leads all over the country, including Gujarat. A primary technical consideration for LIGO-India observatory site is low natural seismic disturbance which is not satisfied by possible sites in Gujarat.

A primary site has been identified at Aundha in Hingoli district of Maharashtra as the preferred site for the LIGO-India Project, while two other backup sites are also being looked at. The site would be finalized only after initial surveys (topographical, seismological, and geo-technical) are completed to assess the technical suitability of the site. As per the current schedule, the first science operations of the LIGO-India are expected to commence in 2024. The required infrastructure for observatory will be in place more than a year prior to that and the observatory will undertake series of engineering operations.

This was stated by the Minister of State for Ministry of Science & Technology and Ministry of Earth Sciences Shri Y. S. Chowdary in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha today.

SOURCE : Construction of Observatory to Study Gravitational Waves