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Task Group | Third Generation Gravitational Wave Observatories

Artist’s impression of a possible underground layout for the Einstein Telescope with an arm length of ten kilometres at a depth of about 100 metres. Image: Kees Huyser

Gravitational waves allow astrophysical observations of regions of the universe that are hidden from observation by electromagnetic waves, such as, for example, the inner processes of super novae, neutron stars, or the early phase of the universe. Although the existence of gravitational waves is proven by the change of the orbital period of pulsars in binary systems, the direct detection of the change of lengths by gravitational waves is still pending.

Gravitational wave detectors of the first generation, installed at various locations around the world, have finished collecting data and are close to being upgraded to the second generation of advanced detectors, with which the detection of gravi- tational waves can be expected. However, astronomical observations and subsequent detailed analysis of the observed signals on a regular basis require an even more sensitive third generation of detectors, two orders of magnitude greater in sensitivity than the first generation.

European researchers, united in their efforts to build such an observatory, are currently carrying out a conceptual design study funded as part of the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme. This task group is participating in this design study by researching various innovative optical read-out schemes and detector topologies, and investigating high-power lasers, the properties of alternative optical materials, the usability of alternatives to dielectric optical coatings, the potential and optimization in the utilization of squeezed light, and the requirements in computational resources for data analysis.