Giant Underground Telescope Could Prove The Existence Of Gravitational Waves
Hida, the northernmost city in Gifu Prefecture, Japan— researchers hope that the secret to proving the existence of gravitational waves could lie 200 meters underground.
Tokyo University's Institute for Cosmic Ray Research has built a giant L-shaped tunnel, 200 meters below ground, made to house the world's very first 'cryogenic gravitational wave telescope'— a giant tool built to once-and-for-all prove one of Einstein's most important theories: the curvature of space-time into gravitational waves.
According to the University of Tokyo, the tunnel itself is actually a part of the infrastructure for this giant space-time curvature-detecting apparatus. The entire system, known as the KAGRA (Kamioka Gravitational Wave Detector), is massive, measuring 4 meters wide and 6 meters long; A suitably gargantuan piece of technology for what will be a massive undertaking.
Einstein predicted that gravitational waves exist almost exactly 100 years ago, in 1916, but because of the elusive nature of these waves, they have yet to actually be detected. These gravitational waves, which, in theory, propagate at the velocity of light from a supernova or some other cataclysmic cosmic event, are extremely difficult to detect from here on Earth, thanks in no small part to the mind-boggling distances they have had to travel in order to reach us.
According to the ICRR researchers, that's why the KAGRA system has been built underground. They hope that the 200-meter buffer from the chaos of being above ground will eliminate disturbances caused by noise and vibration, creating conditions more conducive to catching indicators of the gravitational waves.
L-shaped vacuum pipes will lace through the tunnel to receive laser beam projections. In theory, the KAGRA system will thus be able to detect gravitational waves when these laser beams being projected become distorted.
Junichi Hamada, the president of the University of Tokyo, told reporters this week that he hopes the project will yield a Japanese Nobel Prize, which isn't all that unlikely seeing as Russell A. Hulse and Joseph H. Taylor Jr.—two American physicists— won the physics nobel prize in 1993 for their discovery of indirect evidence of the existence gravitation waves.