Quake damages Japan’s gravity wave telescope ‘Kagra,’ part of international project

Quake damages Japan’s gravity wave telescope ‘Kagra,’ part of international project

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Quake damages Japan’s gravity wave telescope ‘Kagra,’ part of international project

An underground telescope in central Japan that was slated for use in an international project to detect gravitational waves was damaged by a powerful earthquake earlier this month, its operator said Monday.

The telescope “Kagra” in Gifu Prefecture will not be repaired before its scheduled joint run with overseas facilities in March, with Japan aiming to re-join the project by January next year.

The project will allow researchers to better understand the universe by observing the ripples in space-time from cosmic sources such as colliding black holes.

Kagra is installed 200 meters underground inside an L-shaped tunnel, with each arm extending 3 kilometres. It was prepared to begin observations with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory in the United States and the Virgo interferometer, which is hosted by the European Gravitational Observatory in Italy.

The Jan. 1 earthquake, originating in neighbouring Ishikawa Prefecture, caused unexpected movement in the mirrors controlling laser light in Kagra’s gravitational wave detector, with them failing to return to their proper position, according to the University of Tokyo’s Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, one of the telescope’s operators.