China unveils 3 gravitational wave experiments after discovery

17 Feb 2016

Just over a week after its discovery was first announced, three groups of researchers in China have announced they are to undertake investigations into the cosmic phenomenon to better understand it.

The announcement of the discovery of gravitational waves on 9 February was one of the biggest announcements in theoretical physics and astronomy for decades, and now astronomers are finally able to begin what is being described as a “new era in astronomy and physics”.

As was revealed during the discovery, gravitational waves are the result of enormous cosmic events, such as the collision of two black holes, which create ripples in time and space.

The discovery is of huge scientific interest, with astronomers now able to measure the universe in entirely different ways, rather than relying solely on visible and ultraviolet light.

According to AFP, the first of the three scientific experiments to be undertaken will be led by the Chinese state’s Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and will be called the Taiji programme, which will launch satellites into space to measure the waves and learn more about them.

The second of the projects announced by the Xinhua news agency was the Sun Yat-sen University’s similar call to launch a gravitational wave-reading satellite into orbit.

Finally, the third project will be a lot closer to home, with the Institute of High Energy Physics at CAS planning  to build a land-based monitoring system in Tibet.

While none of these projects have yet received official approval from the state, the Chinese single-party government will understandably be quite keen to get things moving, as one Chinese physicist, Hu Wenrui, told the Xinhua newspaper: “If we launch our own satellites, we will have a chance to be a world leader [in gravitational waves research].”

Gravitational waves illustration image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic