Science News

The Institute of Cosmos Sciences becomes a full member of the Virgo Collaboration

Published on 09.07.2019


ICCUB joined the Virgo Collaboration as its newest full member last Thursday, July 4. This collaboration entails a big step forward on our priority line “Fundamental Physics from Gravitational Waves”, where the ICCUB aspires to be at the cutting edge in this area.

Despite the team’s main focus on computing, software and instrumentation, this past year the ICCUB team also supported data analysis activities related to the detector characterisation within the frame of the 3rd Observational Run, which has led to several achievements.

ICCUB Virgo team

Jordi Portell is the ICCUB Virgo group leader “With this decision, the Virgo Steering Committee acknowledges the good progress made by our Institute in the Virgo Collaboration. We have tripled the manpower devoted to this groundbreaking project thanks to PhD students and to the ICCUB core financing program (María de Maeztu). Furthermore, our scientists now have very interesting plans for the Virgo data analysis and science exploitation. Our electronics and instrumentation experts will significantly contribute to the next upgrade of this gravitational waves observatory”, he explains.

Figure 1. Dr. Mark Gieles, ICREA professor at ICCUB.

The Virgo team will also incorporate Dr. Mark Gieles, ICREA professor at the ICCUB, who will perform predictions for gravitational wave detection of dynamically formed binary black hole mergers.

The group experts are reviewing the overall computing model, the software management and the data handling approach, aiming at an efficient use of the computing facilities. It is also intended to improve some of the data analysis pipelines such as those that try to fit a waveform template -generated with astrophysical models and simulations- to the signal, or by better de-noising the signal to allow discovering fainter waves. Moreover, there will be a contribution to the electronics and instrumentation upgrades that will improve Virgo's sensitivity, such as low-noise and high-speed analog-to-digital converters. All this will lead Virgo to routinely detect and analyse more gravitational waves.

The Virgo Collaboration:

Based at the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO) in Cascina, Italy, the Virgo detector is formed by almost 400 experts from all over the world contributing to detect gravitational waves. The detection process is difficult and requires large, complex and expensive observatories, and as such, EGO runs a laser interferometer with two perpendicular arms and a very complex instrumentation. Virgo can detect gravitational waves in the range of roughly 10 Hz to 10 KHz – similar to the audition range, so it is often said that it allows us to «listen» to the Universe. Currently, Virgo can detect phenomena from billions of light years away, reaching over 100.000 galaxies. The higher its sensitivity is the farther it can reach, detecting and observing more events. Nevertheless, now the current sensitivity only allows the detection of phenomena that generates the biggest gravitational waves in the universe, such as collisions between black holes or neutron stars.