India’s LIGO Project to be built by 2030

Context: The Union Cabinet has approved a gravitational-wave detector project in Maharashtra costing Rs 2,600 crores, estimated to be built by 2030.

Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory

  • LIGO, or Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, is an international network of laboratories meant to detect gravitational waves — ripples in space-time produced by the movement of large celestial bodies such as stars and planets.
  • LIGO comprises two enormous laser interferometers located 3000 kilometres apart in Hanford, Washington and Livingston, Louisiana, the United States.
    • The gravitational waves were first discovered in 2015 by two LIGOs based in the United States. 

LIGO India Project

  • A third gravitational-wave detection facility is being built in India as part of the LIGO-India collaboration to:
    • increase the chances of detecting gravitational waves from anywhere in the observable universe.
    • improve the detectors’ collective ability to pinpoint sources of gravitational waves in the sky. 
  • To be located in the Hingoli district of Maharashtra, LIGO-India is scheduled to begin its scientific runs in 2030. 
  • The Department of Atomic Energy and the Department of Science and Technology are building LIGO-India in partnership with the U.S. National Science Foundation and various national and international research institutions.


  • The L-shaped LIGO instrument has two arms, each measuring 4 km long that constitute the most sensitive interferometers in the world. Laser pulses are fired simultaneously through both arms, bouncing off the mirrors at the ends to return to the vertex. A detector analyses whether the pulses coincide upon return. Detecting gravitational waves involves recording and analysing the slightly out-of-time pulses in the detector produced by their passage.

Need for the project

  • While two LIGOs can detect gravitational waves, a third observatory is required for better triangulation of the location of a source of gravitational waves in the sky. A more ideal setup requires four observatories to record the same wave. To this end, researchers are setting up and upgrading detectors in Italy and Japan.
    • Triangulation refers to analysing the results of the same study using different methods of data collection to enhance the validity, reliability, and comprehensiveness of research findings.


  • The observatory will help in better understanding astronomical objects like neutron stars and black holes and for the in-depth study of gravitational waves.
  • The project would have several spin-off benefits to Indian science, apart from making India an integral part of one of the most prestigious international scientific experiments.
  • India could become a global site of gravitational physics research, aiding training and the handling of precision technologies and sophisticated control systems, ultimately, cementing a reputation for successfully running an experimental Big Science project.
    • The starting requirement here is the timely release of funds for construction, followed by issuing the allocated resources without delay.

Gravitational Waves

  • Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time caused when massive objects move with extreme accelerations (similar to ripples in a water pond). 
  • The waves are invisible, travel at the speed of light and squeeze and stretch anything in their path as they pass by. 
  • Gravitational radiation is exceedingly difficult to detect because gravity by nature is much weaker than electromagnetic radiation.
    • Gravity is the weakest of the four fundamental forces of nature i.e., electromagnetic force, strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force. 
    • Due to the extremely low strength of gravitational waves, a high-precision instrument like LIGO is required for their detection. 
  • The most powerful gravitational waves are created when objects move at very high speeds. Some examples of events that could cause a gravitational wave are:
    • when a star explodes asymmetrically (called a supernova)
    • when two big stars orbit each other
    • when two black holes orbit each other and merge. 

Prelims Practise Question:

Q. Consider the following statements with reference to the Gravitational Waves:

1. Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time caused when massive objects move with extreme accelerations.

2. They are invisible but travel at a speed lower than the speed of light.

3. Gravitational waves by nature are much stronger than electromagnetic radiation.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

    1. 1 only

    1. 2 and 3 only

    1. 1 and 2 only

    1. 1, 2 and 3

Answer: (a) 

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