Indian scientists played a crucial role, including in data analysis, in the path-breaking project for the detection of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time. These had been predicted by Albert Einstein predicted a century ago.
Several institutes, including Institute of Plasma Research (IPR) Gandhinagar, Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, and Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT), Indore were involved in the research.
The announcement of detection of gravitational waves was made simultaneously at IUCAA, Pune, and by scientists in Washington DC, USA. Incidentally, India is also one of countries where an advanced gravitational laboratory is being set up.
The key tasks they carried out included the following:
* Understanding the response of the LIGO detector to the signals and terrestrial influences
* Bounding the orbital eccentricity and estimating the mass and spin of the final black hole
* Estimating energy and power radiated during merger
* Confirming that observed signal agrees with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
* Searching for a possible electromagnetic counterpart using optical telescopes.
Some of these jobs were carried out in high performance computing facilities at IUCAA, Pune and ICTS, Bengaluru.
The group, led by Bala Iyer at the Raman Research Institute in collaboration with scientists in France, had pioneered the mathematical calculations used to model gravitational wave signals from orbiting black holes and neutron stars.
Another group led by Sanjeev Dhurandhar at IUCAA initiated and carried out foundation work on developing data analysis techniques to detect these weak gravitational wave signals buried in the detector noise by looking for the best match between the calculated waveforms and the detector signal. Meanwhile, the director of Pune’s Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) Somak Raychaudhury said he was looking forward to the launch of a similar observatory in India.