Researchers of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Department of Mathematics of the UV, coordinated by José Antonio Font, have joined VIRGO Scientific Collaboration, which, located near Pisa (Italy), is the biggest European interferometer detector of gravitational waves.
VIRGO is a Michelson-Morley interferometer composed of two perpendicular arms of three kilometres in length. Its astronomical name is associated with a cluster of galaxies composed of around 1,500 galaxies, located in the Virgo constellation, 50 million light years away. The goal of the first version of the instrument was to detect gravitational waves coming from such distances, hence the name. The VIRGO detector is located in the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO) and is fundamentally funded by French and Italian scientific organisms, mainly the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN), respectively.
In 2006, Holland also joined the Virgo Collaboration through the Nationaal Instituut voor Subatomaire Fysica (Nikhef) aiding in the construction of the interferometer. In 2008, the POLGRAW group from Warsaw and, in 2010, the Wigner Research Centre for Physics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Wigner RCP) from Budapest also joined the VIRGO Collaboration.
The UV team is for the moment, the only Spanish participant.
The VIRGO Collaboration consists of an international team of researchers, engineers and technicians who work together in the construction, validation and operation of the VIRGO interferometer and its updating, the VIRGO advanced detector, with the objective of developing the emerging field of physics and astronomy of gravitational waves. Today, there are more than 250 members in the VIRGO Collaboration, distributed in different institutions from five European countries –France, Italy, Holland, Poland and Hungary.
Since July 2016, Spain is the sixth country to be included in the list. VIRGO Collaboration, in turn, has collaboration agreements with the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC), assigned to two American LIGO interferometers, which are responsible for the two historical gravitational waves recently detected, GW150914 and GW151226, an unprecedented achievement.
José Antonio Font, from the UV, coordinates the only national group which takes part in the VIRGO Collaboration. Husa, Sintes and Font are, together with their teams, members of the Virgo-EGO Scientific Forum (VESF), of which Font participates in the field of relativist astrophysics and cosmology management board.