Organization: Virgo Collaboration
Starting date: 2017
Location: EGO (European Gravitational Observatory)

Virgo is a large Michelson interferometer, with 3 km arms, designed to detect gravitational waves predicted by the general theory of relativity (Albert Einstein, 1916).

Virgo is a scientific collaboration of laboratories from six countries: Italy, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary and Spain. Moreover, it is part of the global network of gravitational waves observatories, which currently includes the two LIGO detectors in the US and Virgo.

Gravitational waves are ‘ripples’ in the fabric of space-time caused by some of the most violent and energetic processes in the Universe such as black holes orbiting each other or a supernova. Thus, LIGO detected the first gravitational in 2015 because of two black holes crashing into one another 1.3 billion years ago.

Gravitational waves are very hard to detect because the events that create this waves happened billions of years ago and by the time they reach the Earth they have a very tiny effect. “When a gravitational wave crosses Virgo, the 3-km arms of the detector are stretched by only a billionth of a billionth of a meter, i.e. less than a thousandth of the diameter of a proton. A very tiny effect that witnesses a violent astrophysical event thousands of light years from us!”- according to the Virgo collaboration website.

However, the most important question is, why do we want to detect gravitational waves? The answer is that they carry valuable information from black holes, supernovas or even the birth of the Universe itself. This information will allow researchers to have a deeper understanding of these events.

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ICC Contribution

The commitment of ICCUB is to provide support on software development and optimization, massive data processing tools and data transfer and archival strategies, in which the team has remarkable expertise owing to the participation in other projects such as the Gaia mission or the Large Hadron Collider LHCb experiment. ICCUB will also contribute to some of the instrumentation and electronics for the next Virgo hardware upgrade. Moreover, our researchers have the purpose of facilitating prompt and reliable alerts on gravitational wave events and to improve the usage of the computational resources of the project.