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China launches first project for primordial gravitational wave detection in northern hemisphere

Updated: Dec 16,2016 10:34 AM     People’s Daily Online

The China Institute of High-Energy Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced the official launch of Project Ngari on Dec 13. The project team plans to build the Ngari 1 telescope and begin scientific observation within five years. Once constructed, it will be the first observatory for primordial gravitational wave detection in the northern hemisphere.

In fact, since the existence of gravitational waves was first predicted by Albert Einstein, no trace was captured in scientific research until Feb 11, 2016, when the LIGO experimental group and US National Science Foundation jointly declared that they had detected a gravitational wave produced by the merging of two black holes 1.3 billion years ago.

After humans first detected a trace of gravitational waves, exploration of primordial gravitational waves, produced as early as the universe came into being, became the next scientific target. Against this backdrop, the project for detection of primordial gravitational waves was finally implemented in China.

Zhang Xinmin, chief scientist for the project, disclosed that its aim is to establish an unprecedentedly sensitive experiment on primordial gravitational waves, and that the experiment may also make breakthroughs in other large scientific questions such as the evolution of the universe, dark matter and dark energy.

Sitting 5,000 meters above sea level in Tibet, the Ngari observatory will possess distinctive geographical, observational and infrastructural advantages, according to Guo Zhaolin, the senior consultant of the project.

With the construction of the Ngari observatory, China will obtain the most accurate observation data in the study of primordial gravitational waves. However, due to China’s limited experience and technical capabilities in detecting the waves, Chinese scientists will cooperate closely with top American research universities and scientific institutes.