CERN's new Einstein Observatory to explore black holes, Big Bang

May 19, 2011
Artistic view of the ET observatory

A new era in astronomy will come a step closer when scientists from across Europe present their design study today for an advanced observatory capable of making precision measurements of gravitational waves -- minute ripples in the fabric of space-time -- predicted to emanate from cosmic catastrophes such as merging black holes and collapsing stars and supernovae. It also offers the potential to probe the earliest moments of the Universe just after the Big Bang, which are currently inaccessible.

The Einstein Observatory (ET) is a so-called third-generation gravitational-wave (GW) detector, which will be 100 times more sensitive than current instruments. Like the first two generations of GW detectors, it is based on the measurement of tiny changes (far less than the size of an ) in the lengths of two connected arms several kilometers long, caused by a passing gravity wave. Laser beams passing down the arms record their periodic stretching and shrinking as interference patterns in a central photo-detector.

The first generation of these interferometric detectors built a few years ago (GEO600, LIGO, Virgo and TAMA) successfully demonstrated the proof-of-principle and constrained the gravitational wave emission from several sources. The next generation (Advanced LIGO and Advanced Virgo), which are being constructed now, should make the first direct detection of -- for example, from a pair of orbiting or spiraling into each other. Such a discovery would herald the new field of GW astronomy. However, these detectors will not be sensitive enough for precise astronomical studies of the GW sources.

"The community of scientists interested in exploring GW phenomena therefore decided to investigate building a new generation of even more sensitive observatories. 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," says Harald Lück, deputy scientific coordinator of the ET Design Study.

The design study, which will be presented at the European Gravitational Observatory site in Pisa, Italy, outlines ET's scientific targets, the detector layout and technology, as well as the timescale and estimated costs. I A superb sensitivity will be achieved by building ET underground, at a depth of about 100 to 200 meters, to reduce the effect of the residual seismic motion. This will enable higher sensitivities to be achieved at low frequencies, between 1 and 100 hertz (Hz). With ET, the entire range of GW frequencies that can be measured on Earth -- between about 1 Hz and 10 kHz -- should be detected. "An observatory achieving that level of sensitivity will turn GW detection into a routine astronomical tool. ET will lead a scientific revolution", says Michele Punturo, the scientific coordinator of the design study. An important aim is to provide GW information that complements observational data from telescopes detecting electromagnetic radiation (from radio waves through to gamma-rays) and other instruments detecting high-energy particles from space (astroparticle physics).

A Multi-Detector

The strategy behind the ET project is to build an observatory that overcomes the limitations of current detector sites by hosting more than one GW detector. It will consist of three nested detectors, each composed of two interferometers with arms 10 kilometers long. One
interferometer will detect low-frequency gravitational wave signals (2 to 40 Hz), while the other will detect the high-frequency components. The configuration is designed to allow the observatory to evolve by accommodating successive upgrades or replacement components that can take advantage of future developments in interferometry and also respond to a variety of science objectives.

Explore further: Japanese Underground Gravitational Wave Detector

Related Stories

Japanese Underground Gravitational Wave Detector

April 16, 2004

A laser interferometer gravitational wave antenna with a baseline length of 20 m (LISM) was developed at a site 1000 m underground, near Kamioka, Japan. This project was a unique demonstration of a prototype laser interferometer ...

Scientists aim to unlock gravitational wave mysteries

October 19, 2006

Scientists at The Australian National University today joined a consortium of universities launching plans for a new observatory to detect a space phenomenon that has challenged physicists since it was first proposed by Einstein ...

LIGO and Virgo Join Forces In Search for Gravitational Waves

February 14, 2007

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Virgo interferometric gravitational-wave detector of the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO) near Pisa, Italy, have agreed to join in a collaborative ...

LIGO once again looking for gravitational waves

March 3, 2006

The quest to detect and study gravitational waves with the National Science Foundation-funded Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, is on again. LIGO is currently conducting its first sustained observational ...

LIGO Sheds Light on Cosmic Event

December 21, 2007

An analysis by the international LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) Scientific Collaboration has excluded one previously leading explanation for the origin of an intense gamma-ray burst that occurred ...

Recommended for you

Dawn of a galactic collision

December 14, 2017

A riot of colour and light dances through this peculiarly shaped galaxy, NGC 5256. Its smoke-like plumes are flung out in all directions and the bright core illuminates the chaotic regions of gas and dust swirling through ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) May 19, 2011
An ingenous design... With the tiny scale of fluctuation they are looking to measure, I wonder what techniques they use to account for 'local' sources?
1.3 / 5 (13) May 19, 2011
the design study for the Einstein Telescope, which paves the way for unveiling a hidden side of the Universe . . ."

There are no Black Holes, probably there was no Big Bang, and certainly there is no way to know if a study will unveil "a hidden side of the Universe."

Those seriously interested in understanding the competing roles of gravity and neutron repulsion in explaining our dynamic lives, the Sun and the Cosmos will want to begin by reading where we are now in that ongoing search [1-3]:

1. "Earth's Heat Source - The Sun",
Energy & Environ 20, 131-144 (2009)

2. "Neutron Repulsion", The APEIRON
Journal, in press (2011) 19 pages

3. "Is the Universe Expanding?"
The Journal of Cosmology 13, 4187-4190 (2011)

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo
not rated yet May 19, 2011
Stop at nothing.
The second meaning:
Nothing (discovered) means stop too.
Both meanings, one for each camp involved.

And on it continues...
4 / 5 (1) May 19, 2011
Looks like LISA taken underground...anybody besides me thinking it's a good idea to have such a "bleeding edge of technology" detector where we can get our hands on it in case it needs repair? I've never been comfortable with LISA or the James Webb space telescope for that reason.
2.3 / 5 (6) May 19, 2011
This is a waste of money at this point.

In order to be useful for the precision needed for an atomic scale measurment of an event that happens just once at an unknown or random time period, such as a gravity wave approaching at the speed of light, you need atomic scale engineering precision for every individual component of the detector.

Additionally, you have to be able to sort out seismic waves and other interference which range all the way from infinitesmal to tens or even scores of orders of magnitude larger than the gravity wave signatures will ever be.

So it would be incredibly difficult, if not completely impossible, to detect and properly triangulate the origin of these waves, even if you had an atomically precise detector.
2.4 / 5 (8) May 19, 2011
Headline "Scientist set to measuring nothing"
Scientist want to set a upper value of nothing to eliminate many of compeating theories of nothing; to this end they propose the biggest nothing measuring machine ever, The LINO "Laser Inferator Nothing Observatory"
This research could lead to a "new physics of nothing" from which nothing useful can be made, says someone :)

5 / 5 (3) May 19, 2011
spectator: I think you have it wrong. You stated: "In order to be useful for the precision needed for an atomic scale measurment of an event that happens just once at an unknown or random time period,..." You seem to think they are looking for single events (such as the merger of black holes). They are, but they are also looking for repeating signals: "...for example, from a pair of orbiting black holes or neutron stars spiraling into each other." The spiraling neutron stars or black holes would emanate periodic waves that would be detectable.

As for the idea that they are looking for nothing, the underpinning theories of general relativity point to gravitational waves. If they don't find them GR needs to be revised. That is very important. A null finding from an experiment can be as important as a positive signal. The signals they are looking for are very small since gravity is such a weak force.
4.4 / 5 (7) May 19, 2011
"There are no Black Holes, probably there was no Big Bang," - OmaTard

Yadda, yadda, yadda, and in every post you proclaim that the sun is composed of IRON and driven by reactions between neutrons.

You are silly.

Go away.

1.5 / 5 (8) May 20, 2011
"...what is accepted as true by a particular generation may be classed as gross superstition by succeeding generations; it can never be absolute truth" Alfred M Still
Omatumr is just trying to help you see beyond each side of the visible spectrum. The dogma of black holes, big bang, and dark energy stifles our future.
What is silly is not to question old belief with new data but a lot of people are riding that gravy train.
1 / 5 (2) May 21, 2011
At what price tag does the following statement:

GW remains "elusive" despite new data, despite sensitivity.

lose justification?

Or for ANY "elusive" predicted phenomena?

(Slightly more pragmatic than the wording of James' irony)

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.