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What is LIGO-India and Its Impact on Space Science?

India is going to set up its own Laser Interferometer Gravitational -Wave Observatory at Aundha in Maharashtra. The total cost of building the observatory is $320 mn. 

The collaborative effort to establish the facilty is being undertaken by LIGO Laboratory jointly run by Caltech and MIT in USA, Natonal Science Foundation and India's Raja Ramanna Centre for Advance Technology among others. 

When LIGO-India is completed, it will join a global network of gravitational-wave observatories that includes Virgo in Italy and KAGRA in Japan. With its advanced gravitational-wave-sensing technology, LIGO-India will greatly improve the ability of scientists to pinpoint the sky locations of the sources of gravitational waves. Because of its location on Earth with respect to LIGO, Virgo, and KAGRA, it will also fill in blind spots in the current gravitational-wave network.

"LIGO-India will increase the precision with which we can localize the gravitational-wave events by an order of magnitude," says Rana Adhikari, Professor of Physics at Caltech. "This will greatly enhance our ability to answer fundamental questions about the universe, including how black holes form and the expansion rate of our universe, as well as to more rigorously test Einstein's general theory of relativity."

The first observations from the laboratory would be possible by the end of the decade. So far, LIGO and Virgo have detected the massive rumblings of dozens of collisions between black holes. In 2017, the observatories also detected a collision between neutron stars that sent out not only gravitational waves but a powerful burst of light waves spanning the electromagnetic spectrum. Because all three gravitational-wave detectors (LIGO's twin facilities and Virgo) were observing the sky during the 2017 event, scientists were able to narrow down the region of sky where the event occurred. This proved to be a crucial factor in guiding the light-based telescopes to pinpoint the precise location of the spectacular blast. The light-based observations led to the discovery that heavy elements, such as gold, were forged in the cosmic explosion.

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