Nikhef third member of the European Gravitational wave Observatory EGO

11 December 2020

As of 2021, the National Institute for Subatomic Physics Nikhef is an official member of EGO, the cooperation within Europe in the field of gravitational wave research.

This was announced on Friday. Nikhef is the third official member of EGO. Until now the Italian INFN and the French CNRS were the members.

Gravitational waves are subtle ripples of space itself which, according to Einstein’s theory of relativity, arise when very compact objects collide. In 2015 these vibrations were observed for the first time.

On behalf of Nikhef, director Stan Bentvelsen closed the agreement in an online meeting of the EGO board. ‘A major milestone in building a European network for future GW research, with a large commitment from these countries’, he calls it. The Netherlands had the status of EGO observer until now.

Bentvelsen points to the effort of Nikhef researcher Jo van den Brand at the entrance. Van den Brand, professor in Maastricht, was the scientific foreman at the Virgo gravitational wave detector at Pisa until this spring. Nikhef under his leadership has played a leading role in construction and measurements with Virgo for many years.

Virgo and Nikhef were closely involved in the first observation of a gravitational wave in 2015, at that time with the LIGO detectors in the US. Since then, dozens of signals have been measured, mainly from colliding black holes and sometimes neutron stars.

Within Europe, the construction of a large new underground gravitational wave detector, the Einstein Telescope, is now being prepared. Proposals for this have been submitted in a European context. Next to Sardinia South Limburg near Vaals is a potential construction site.