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Listening to the Universe

On 20 May 2011, European scientists present a new research infrastructure that will bring Europe to the forefront of the most promising development in our quest to understand the origin of the universe. United in their efforts to detect these ripples in space and time, the sci...
Listening to the Universe
On 20 May 2011, European scientists present a new research infrastructure that will bring Europe to the forefront of the most promising development in our quest to understand the origin of the universe. United in their efforts to detect these ripples in space and time, the scientists' work will be showcased at the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO) in Pisa, Italy.

'After a three-year study, involving more than 200 scientists in Europe and across the world, we are pleased to present the design study for the Einstein Telescope, which paves the way for unveiling a hidden side of the universe,' said Harald Lück, deputy scientific coordinator of the Einstein Telescope design study.

The European Commission has allocated EUR 3 million under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) through the 'Research Infrastructures' Action of the 'Capacities' Programme for preliminary studies for the development of the Einstein Telescope, a third-generation gravitational wave detector. These define the specifications for the required site and infrastructure, the necessary technologies and estimated costs.

'The European Commission recognised the importance of gravitational wave science as developed in Europe, its value for fundamental and technological research, and provided a common framework for the European scientists involved in the gravitational wave search,' commented Federico Ferrini, director of the EGO.

Detecting gravitational waves will give Einstein's general theory of relativity a workout that it has never had before. These ripples in time and space will let scientists listen carefully to the most violent events in the universe, the collision of black holes. The sounds of the universe will also allow them to penetrate times and places impossible to see with ordinary light, such as the birth of our universe.

Gravitational waves have thus far eluded the detection efforts of scientists worldwide. As a third-generation observatory, the Einstein Telescope will be 100 times more sensitive than current gravitational wave detectors, increasing the observable volume of the universe by a factor of a million.

'An observatory achieving that level of sensitivity will turn gravitational wave detection into a routine astronomical tool. The Einstein Telescope will lead a scientific revolution,' commented Michele Punturo, the scientific coordinator of the Einstein Telescope design study.

Of all waves and particles known to physics, gravitational waves interact the least. They can thus carry information from the earliest moments of the universe, when it was so dense that neither light nor neutrinos could escape. For instance, radio waves of the cosmic microwave background escaped when the universe was 300,000 years old. Gravitational waves began their journey to us when the universe was less than 10^-35 seconds old.

On the other hand, like electromagnetic waves, gravitational waves cover a broad spectrum. The Einstein Telescope will seek a direct detection of waves with frequencies between 1 Hz and 10 kHz. At smaller frequencies, the confusing foreground from astrophysical sources is hopelessly large. At the larger frequencies at which ground-based gravitational wave detectors must operate, the expected signal becomes too weak to detect. In between, lies a window of opportunity to better understand the origin of the universe.

Source: CERN; ASPERA

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Countries (5)

  • Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom
Record Number: 33424 / Last updated on: 2011-05-19
Category: Other
Provider: EC
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