Today in Cascina, near Pisa, the ceremony to celebrate the beginning of the “hunt” for gravitational waves by Virgo, the highly technological Italian-French experiment. It will be the beginning of the collaboration with the American “Ligo” experiments in Louisiana and in the State of Washington. Therefore Virgo, Ligo and the German experiment GEO together constitute a virtual single antenna that departs from Italy, crosses the Atlantic and reaches the Pacific coast.
The hunt for gravitational waves has begun, the “phantom” foreseen by Einstein 91 years ago and never yet observed.
This experiment, constructed together by the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) and by the French CNRS, will open its eyes in the next few days onto the universe to try and capture these extremely feeble signals created by large stars collapsing or by other extremely relevant cosmic events like the ones involving black holes.
Since May 18th Virgo, interferometer of the Ego gravitational observatory, situated near Cascina Pisa, has begun to function. Virgo, the biggest interferometer existing in Europe, will join the interferometers of the Ligo project in the United States and Geo600 in Germany. These machines are based on extremely precise laser beams that bounce for kilometres on perfect mirrors suspended from structures made of pendulums and counterweights that shield them from the slightest vibration.
The international collaboration, which has now started to move the first operational steps, will allow for a greater degree of certainty in the identification of the arrival of a gravitational wave, its origin in the cosmos and its structure.
The start of this collaboration was celebrated in the seat of Virgo this morning with a conference opened to the press in the course of which there were speakers such as the director of EGO, Filippo Menzinger, the general director of CNRS, Arnold Mingus, the vice-president of INFN, Sergio Bertolucci, the representative of the American National Science Foundation Tony Chan, one of the designers of Virgo, Adalberto Giazotto, the French manager of Virgo, Alin Brillet, the Virgo spokesperson, Benoit Mours and the Ligo spokesperson, Dave Reitze.
“This international collaboration in a basic research project– said Sergio Bertolucci - demonstrates the strategic importance of investments in basic science. Without this kind of research, no society can remain competitive for long”.
The first experiments to find gravitational waves date back to the 60s. In 1989 the first proposal was formulated to create Virgo, whose construction began in 1996. The cost of the Italo-French structure is of 78 million euros only for the construction. In 2003 the plant was completed and it took 4 years for the calibration of the instruments and of sub-systems.
web site http://www.virgo.infn.it/
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