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Gravitational wave detection lab unveiled in Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun/ANN | Sunday, Jul 6, 2014

Space that will become the central laboratory of the KAGRA gravitational wave project is shown to media deep underground in Hida, Gifu Prefecture, on Friday.

JAPAN - A huge tunnel dug deep underground as part of a project in Hida, Gifu Prefecture, to directly detect gravitational waves for the first time has been revealed to the media by the University of Tokyo's Institute for Cosmic Ray Research.

Physicist Albert Einstein suggested the waves exist about 100 years ago, but they have yet to be directly detected. The Kamioka Gravitational Wave Detector (KAGRA) project aims to prove such waves exist.

KAGRA will be set up inside an L-shaped tunnel with two arms each three kilometers long. It will attempt to detect minuscule distortions caused by the waves in the length of time taken for a laser beam to travel through the tunnel. The waves are thought to be produced during the merging of binary neutron stars, and other events in space.

Gravitational waves, generated when heavy objects move violently, are thought to be able to distort the space around them.

Projects in the United States and Europe to detect gravitational waves are under way, but measurements taken through KAGRA will apparently be 1,000 times more sensitive.

Total construction costs will be about ¥15.6 billion. The tunnel walls are currently being painted, and work to detect the gravitational waves will begin in earnest in fiscal 2017. The tunnel was shown to the media Friday.

Takaaki Kajita, director of the University of Tokyo's Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, which is playing a central role in the KAGRA project, believes some important discoveries could be made.

"I hope we can detect gravitational waves for the first time, and open the door to a new field of astronomy," Kajita said at a press conference. 

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