China is setting up a gravitational-wave observatory in a Tibet prefecture close to the border with India, PTI reported on Saturday. Located at least 5,250 meters above sea level, this will be the highest altitude at which the telescopes have ever been installed. The $18.8-million (around Rs128 crore) project will help Beijing gather data on primordial gravitational waves in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Chinese government has already started the construction work for the first telescope 30 km south of Shiquanhe Town in Ngari prefecture, close to the Line of Actual Control China shares with India. Yao Yongqiang chief researcher with the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the telescope has been code-named Ngari No 1.
While the first telescope will be located at 5,250 meters above sea level, the second phase will have a series of telescopes placed about 6,000 meters above sea level. The first telescope is expected to be running by 2021.
The Institute of High Energy Physics, National Astronomical Observatories, and the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology are part of the two-phase project. Yao said the Ngari observatory, once completed, will be one of the world’s leading gravitational wave observation bases.
Gravitational waves, first predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916, are ripples in the curvature of space-time, which is the very fabric of the universe. These waves are actual physical ripples that move away from each other and closer together, thus stretching and squeezing the space they exist in.
However, it was only in February 2016 that Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory scientists established the existence of gravitational waves with their first detection.