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Will an Israeli facility be built to detect gravitational waves?

At the Spacestack conference that will be held on May 22 at the Tel Aviv Expo, an initiative to establish an Israeli LIGO association (consortium) in regional cooperation will be announced


By: Professor Assaf Far from Bar Ilan University, Dr. Lavia Sigman and Lior Herman from the TYPE5 VC Foundation

In February 2016, scientists at the Gravitational Wave Observatory in the United States made history by using LIGO interferometer  when the first discovery of gravitational waves was announced. Gravitational waves are unlike any other signal that has ever been received. While all other signals are either photons (of different wavelengths) or particles (cosmic rays or neutrinos), gravitational waves have a completely different essence. According to Einstein's theory of relativity, the universe is not "hard" (similar to a board on which things are drawn) but flexible - similar to a rubber sheet, which can be stretched and contracted. Gravitational waves are tiny ripples in the fabric of the universe, caused by the acceleration of massive bodies, such as black hole mergers or neutron stars. They were first predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity more than a century ago, but it took about a century for the technology to detect those tiny ripples to mature.

From a tour in Virgo Italy. Credit: Lior Herman, Type5VC
From a tour in Virgo Italy. Credit: Lior Herman, Type5VC

The LIGO facilities Located in Hanford, Washington and Livingston, Louisiana. A modern version of the Michelson interferometer was built at each of the sites. Each such interferometer consists of two concrete tubes connected at the base point and forming the shape of the letter L. The length of each tube is 4 km. Inside the tubes, two powerful laser beams pass through a series of mirrors. These are used to measure the difference in lengths between the two arms with extreme precision. When the gravitational waves pass through the detectors, they distort the space and cause the length of the tubes to change at very tiny distances (that is, at the subatomic level). However, the combination of the laser with the sophisticated optical system makes it possible to distinguish even the smallest changes in length - from an order of magnitude of 1 to 10 to the power of 22 (equal to measuring the distance from Tel Aviv to Istanbul with the precision of the size of a single proton). The discovery of gravitational waves earned the project's leaders, Professors Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish, the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2017.

Using unique technologies to detect gravitational waves may open a window to look into the history of the universe, observing events such as the Big Bang, and will provide a breakthrough ability to examine neutron stars, the formation of the early universe, black holes and more. This is in a way that will constitute a scientific leap, and will create groundbreaking technological developments, with practical uses in the civilian and military industries.  

LIGO Gravitational Wave Observatory in the US, credit: caltech
LIGO Gravitational Wave Observatory in the US, Credit: caltech

In light of the project's success, the US is currently developing an even more ambitious project called the Cosmic Explorer, which is planned to be larger in base dimensions, about 20/40 km (ten times larger than the current detector), and more sensitive than the current observatory . In addition, the space agency NASA is working on an even more ambitious project - a system called Laser Interferometry Space Antenna (NASA, LISA) "space antenna" based on satellites carrying a laser interferometer. LISA will be the first dedicated space-based gravitational wave detector.

Integrated Global Positioning for Gravitational Wave Monitoring

In recent years, a number of countries, including Italy, Japan and India, have built or intend to build additional gravity detectors that will work as part of the partnership that is today international, and includes scientists from a large number of countries. The main advantage of an extensive deployment of detectors around the globe is the ability to more precisely locate the source of the visible gravitational waves, thus quickly directing telescopes to the correct point in the sky so as to enable a rapid study of the phenomenon that led to the creation of the gravitational waves.

לItaly has an active gravitational wave observatory called VIRGO, whose planning began in the early 90s, and was first activated in 2003. After years of improvements, as of 2017 it is integrated with the American LIGO detector. Together they increase both the sensitivity and above all the accuracy of the location of the source of gravity waves. The Virgo interferometer is designed to detect gravitational waves and is located in Santo Stefano a Macrata, near the city of Pisa, Italy. The two arms of the device, three kilometers long, host its mirrors and instruments inside high vacuum tubes.

VIRGO is managed by the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO), a consortium founded by the French CNRS and the Italian INFN. The Virgo Collaboration operates the detector and consists of more than 700 members, representing 129 institutions in 16 different countries. The interferometer is named after the star cluster VIRGO, which contains about 1,500 galaxies in the constellation about 50 million light years from Earth. 

Einstein Telescope observatory planned for LIGO's next ball in Europe: credit
Einstein Telescope observatory planned for LIGO's next ball in Europe: credit

The collaboration with VIRGO is also part of the larger LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA (LVK) collaboration, which reunites scientists from the other Large Gravitational Wave Experiments, with the aim of carrying out a joint analysis of the data that is essential for the detection of gravitational waves.

Beyond the USA and Italy, Japan has also built a gravitational wave observatory in recent years. The Japanese observatory is the first in the world to be entirely underground, and uses innovative cooling technology for the mirrors.  Japan's KAGRA Gravitational Wave Observatory Goes into operation in 2021, in the meantime it operates with lower sensitivity. However, after the improvement of the sensitivity of the Gravitational Wave Observatory in Japan planned for the near future, it will become the detector with the highest sensitivity, and enable the establishment of an even stronger detection network. 

Earlier this year, the Indian government approved a budget of 320 million dollars to build another gravitational wave detector on Indian soil. The detector should be ready in 2030, and join the international network of detectors. The work towards the detector, which began about a decade ago, coordinates and directs the activities of about ten research institutes and universities all over India. India hosted postdocs from around the world, and sent students and researchers from India to LIGO laboratories and LVK institutions around the world for further training in technology and the relevant science fields.

The existence of multiple observatories separated by vast distances around the world not only allows for a greater degree of verification of the discoveries, but also helps to precisely locate the area in space from which the signal comes (similar to GPS positioning which is carried out by several coordinates).

LISA project to measure gravitational waves in space. Photo: NASA
 LISA project to measure gravitational waves in space. Photo: NASA

The Israeli angle 

In Israel there is one research group fully affiliated with LVK, in the physics department at Bar Ilan University. The group deals with the analysis of sources and processing of data from the detectors, especially their use for the study of general relativity, black holes, and neutron stars. Additional groups working on LIGO physics and data also exist at the Weizmann Institute, the Hebrew University, the Technion, and Ben Gurion University. 

The activity is expected to expand significantly with the start of the fourth observation run (O4) of the detectors starting at the end of May, for about a year and a half of data collection, and a similar period until the information is processed and extracted. A significant leap forward in the scope and nature of the involvement - theoretical and technological - will be possible if another detector is developed.

LIGO – Gravitational waves light up the universe | A national opportunity

The LIGO facilities and the associated technological research and development are expected to affect a variety of existing technologies and developments. Unique technological developments are expected to be produced from LIGO facilities, such as next-generation chip developments - light-based optical chips, signal analysis using AI, development of molecular resolution, advanced medical scanning, and quantum-based drive systems. 

Establishment of the Israel LIGO Institute

The Israeli LIGO project in cooperation with the Emirates is planned to be launched during 2024 in the first phase as a scientific center for the development and commercialization of technologies when, in coordination with government, academic and research bodies, the establishment of the measurement institute in an above-ground or underground configuration (similar to the design of the European institute) will be examined due to land limitations in Israel.

LIGO - ISRAEL is planned as a scientific consortium in which the best universities in Israel, research institutes and technology companies will take part. The project is an extraordinary opportunity, not only in the field of foreign relations and Israel's integration in the region, but first and foremost in the scientific-technological field. 

This project is of national, scientific and technological importance to the State of Israel. Its consequences in these aspects are not limited only to aspects of technological entrepreneurship, science, academia and R&D in the civil sphere, but also to military and strategic aspects. 

It is expected that in the next decade the progress in the fields of materials science, photonic and quantum computing systems, will accelerate the process of miniaturization of detector technologies and at the same time will make it possible to apply the sensing and processing capabilities in the cloud computing market, edge computing (EDGE COMPUTING) as well as in the renewable energy industry and more.

The modern interferometer systems are the result of advances in the physical study of photon behavior, quantum interweaving with advanced detector technology. 

The study of black holes is just one example of a scientific development that is accelerating research and development in the field of optical measurement and sensing devices. The security development and commercialization capabilities also clarify the importance of the deep-tech economy (an economy made up of companies that develop systems that are at the seam between basic and applied science, as any such technology has a great chance of disrupting large markets) for Israel and the development of projects such as LIGO in international and Israeli cooperation.

The second Spacestack conference to be held on May 22 at the Expo Tel Aviv Convention Center will focus on building the space economy, which is estimated at a trillion dollars, and Space Nation as a growth engine for the planet. 

From a tour in Virgo Italy. Credit: Lior Herman, Type5VC
From a tour in Virgo Italy. Credit: Lior Herman, Type5VC

This article is promoted content for surfers of the knowledge website. The article was written in collaboration with Professor Assaf Far from the Physics Department at Bar Ilan University, in collaboration with Dr. Lavia Sigman who serves as a manager, director and consultant in several companies and organizations in the field of nanomaterials, cleantech, biotechnology and agritech, and in collaboration with Lior Herman, partner and founder of the venture capital fund TYPE5 VC specializing in space technologies .

The event will be moderated by N12 technology reporter Dror Gloverman. The lectures are intended for researchers, developers, entrepreneurs, private investors, venture capital funds, managers and marketing, technology and science professionals. 

A special discount for the surfers of the knowledge site - enter the discount code spacevip75. the number of seats is limited. To order tickets on the Space Conference 2023 website:

3 תגובות

  1. For 75 years they have not been able to build a subway in Israel, so will they build a facility to detect gravitational waves?

  2. The money will come from what is left after the ultra-Orthodox, the Messianic and the Pyromaniacs take what they want from the state budget…….

  3. There is no point in building a facility to detect gravitational waves, because there is no gravity, and there are no gravitational waves.
    If gravity existed, the law of conservation of energy would not exist.
    Since the law of conservation of energy exists without a shadow of a doubt, then gravity does not exist without a shadow of a doubt.
    And if gravity doesn't exist, gravitational waves don't exist either.
    And if gravitational waves do not exist, what is the point of building a facility, which is supposed to detect gravitational waves that do not exist?
    It makes sense to build a facility that will discover the existence of passive time waves.
    Passive time appears in Asbar's physics, which is supposed to replace the physics of Newton and Einstein.
    This physics appears in the book "The Magical Journey of Asbar on the Wings of Natural Knowledge"

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