KAGRA to Join the Hunt for Gravitational-Wave Events

Japan's Kamioka Gravitational-Wave Detector will join LIGO and Europe's Virgo to find more gravitational-waves.
Donna Fuscaldo
Gamma ray burst with gravitational-waves sakkmesterke/iStock

Detecting gravitational waves, or the shakings of outer space when a cosmic event occurs, just got a little easier now that Japan's Kamioka Gravitational-Wave Detector will team up with National Science Foundation's Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)  and Europe's Virgo to find more gravitational waves. 

With Japan's KAGRA currently in the commissioning phase it is aiming to join the network of gravitational-waves observations in December, Takaaki Kajita, principal investigator of the KAGRA project and co-winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics said in a press release announcing the collaboration. The agreement calls for all the parties to engage in joint observations and data sharing. 


KAGRA will enhance the science in the years to come

With KAGRA joining the effort, Caltech's David Reitze, executive director of the LIGO Laboratory said it will "significantly enhance" the science in the years to come. "The more detectors we have in the global gravitational-wave network, the more accurately we can localize the gravitational-wave signals on the sky, and the better we can determine the underlying nature of cataclysmic events that produced the signals," said Reitze.

The scientists pointed to 2017 when Virgo and two LIGO detectors were able to pinpoint a merger of two neutron stars to a patch of sky that was around 30 square degrees in size, or less than 0.1% of the sky. Because of its small size, it enabled ground-based and space telescopes to identify the galaxy that had the collision and observe the aftermath. 

Scientists aim to detect more gravitational-wave events 

With KAGRA's help, the scientists believe they can narrow these gravitational-wave events to patches of the sky as small as 10 square degrees, which will enhance the ability for the telescopes to conduct observations. In the beginning, KAGRA will operate at sensitivities that are too low to detect gravitational-waves but the performance of it should improve over time.  With a fourth detector, the scientists said it will also increase the detection rate. 

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KAGRA will be the first detector to operate underground and will be the first to use cryogenically chilled mirrors to reduce thermal noise. "These features could supply a very important direction for the future of gravitational-wave detectors with much higher sensitivities. Therefore, we should make every effort, for the global gravitational-wave community, to prove that the underground site and the cryogenic mirrors are useful," said Kajita.

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