China to launch domestic gravitational wave research project

Scientists have for the first time detected gravitational waves in a landmark discovery that opens a new window for studying the cosmos.
Scientists have for the first time detected gravitational waves in a landmark discovery that opens a new window for studying the cosmos. PHOTO: LIGO

BEIJING - Tianqin, China's domestic gravitational wave research project initiated by the Sun Yat-sen University in July 2015, is awaiting governmental approval, Xinhua news agency reported.

The US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) announced its ground-breaking discovery of gravitational waves on Thursday (Feb 11), which fulfilled the prediction of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity a century ago.

The new discovery has encouraged further studies into gravitational waves around the world, with China accelerating its domestic research, said Li Miao, dean of the Institute of Astronomy and Space Science of the university in China's Guangdong Province in the south. According to Li, Tianqin has already made progress on some key technologies and will be carried out in four stages over the next 15 to 20 years, including the last step of launching three high-orbit satellites to detect gravitational waves.

The university plans to build a 5,000-square-meter observatory and a new lab occupying more than 10,000 square meters on Fenghuang Mountain in Zhuhai City, Guangdong Province, according to Xinhua.

Chen Yanbei, scientist with LIGO, said Tianqin will study the gravitational waves in the space, which is different from research made by the US ground-based observatory.

"Tianqin will likely collect more information about the phenomenon, as a larger black hole may be detected in space compared with one detected on the ground," said Chen.

Sun Yat-sen University is willing to co-operate with other institutions in China as well as around the globe to carry out its project, Li added.