No doubt that 2015 will be a bright year! It is of course the International Year of Light but it will also mark the first light for the gravitational wave detector Advanced Virgo based near Pisa in Italy. Advanced Virgo aims to detect the most violent events in the universe by measuring on Earth extremely small ripples in the fabric of space time itself. The detector is a giant Michelson interferometer made of two perpendicular 3-km long arms spreading along the Tuscan countryside. Advanced Virgo is the proud successor of the initial Virgo interferometer, with the same vacuum facility but it aims to be ten times more sensitive than Virgo by implementing a more powerful laser, larger mirrors and improved seismic isolation. This new detector will end its construction in the autumn of 2015 and will start contributing to gravitational wave astronomy in the coming years.
The Virgo Collaboration has a strong commitment to outreach activities and during the International Year of Light, numerous events will be organised or supported by Virgo members. Below is our own selection of two events (more to come soon):
Event at the European Gravitational Observatory
Having on site an interferometer with a high power laser travelling within its vacuum facility, the European Gravitational Observatory could not miss the GOLD [Global Open Lab Day] initiative that encourages laboratories to open their doors from May 9 to 25.On the very first GOLD day – May 9 – EGO will therefore be open to visitors, eager to see the Virgo interferometer and to discover how it works.
Site tours, guided by Virgo scientists, will start at 2:00 pm for the whole afternoon and in the evening, astronomical observations will enlighten the sky from 9:00 to 12:00 pm, through the telescopes provided by a local association of amateur astronomers, “Galileo Galilei”.
A Science Café will make sure to highlight one side of the scientists present in the evening that may be unknown to the visitors, by making all of them chat with each other in-between!
Event in Lyon, France
From 20-26 September 2015, a green laser will cross the sky of Lyon in France. A beam of laser light will be projected from one of the highest points in Lyon to the city hall in Vaulx-En-Velin, 8 km away, where it will be reflected back. This setup will reproduce the famous experiment of Fizeau used to determine the speed of light. During the evenings, at the laser source, people will be welcomed by scientists to discuss light and lasers and they will be given the opportunity to do their own measurements. The main organisers of this event are the Institut Lumière Matière [ILM] and the planetarium of Vaulx-En-Velin.
In this special year, a new outreach website about the science behind gravitational waves and the Virgo project activity is under construction. Stay tuned for the announcement of its official release.