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Einstein Telescope approved for ESFRI Roadmap 2021

Simulation of gravitational waves caused by merging neutron stars. Credits: R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL

The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) has announced that the 3rd generation gravitational wave observatory “Einstein Telescope (ET)” will be part of 2021 upgrade of the ESFRI roadmap. This confirms ET´s relevance for future research in Europe and gravitational wave research at global level.

The ET Research Infrastructure Consortium Coordinators, Antonio Zoccoli of INFN (Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, Italy) and Stan Bentvelsen of Nikhef (Dutch National Institute for Subatomic Physics) both also members of the APPEC GA, are extremely excited about this result.

“We are very pleased about this important result: the ESFRI approval acknowledges the value of our project and strengthens ET at the European level”, says Zoccoli. “We will work synergistically on its development, confident that it is strategic to foster our knowledge of the universe, technological innovation and social growth.”

“The ESFRI status is a major step towards the realisation of this European project,” – says Bentvelsen – “scientifically the Einstein Telescope is undisputed, and with the ESFRI status there is indispensable recognized support for its quality and impact. We are looking ahead to further develop the plans together with all countries involved.”

“The preparation of the proposal has been a two years large effort involving several research institutions and universities, now composing the Einstein Telescope consortium, belonging to ten European countries and having real interdisciplinary competences”, says Michele Punturo, Coordinator of the ET-ESFRI proposal preparation. The proposal was submitted by the Italian government in September 2020, supported by the governments from the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and Spain.

Since September 9th, several of the people involved were invited to present the plans, to deepen specific aspects of the project and answer questions of the ESFRI evaluation committee. Among them was Marica Branchesi, member of the ET-ESFRI proposal preparation team: “We have worked hard to develop the science case of the Einstein Telescope. Each simulation showed us the enormous capabilities of the Einstein Telescope observing the Universe. The Einstein Telescope will revolutionize our knowledge in fundamental physics, astrophysics, and cosmology”, says Branchesi.

The Einstein Telescope is designed as a triangle of long tunnels, spanning 10 km each. It will be located 200-300m underground. (Credits: Nikhef / Thijs Balder)

“This positive decision will now allow European gravitational wave researchers to move forward quickly with detailed planning and the site decision. I am very much looking forward to ET because it will serve as an integral part of the emerging field of multi-messenger astronomy”, says Harald Lück, from the Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH) and Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute, AEI).

The Einstein Telescope was confirmed in a long and accurate evaluation and selection process. During the ESFRI Assembly meeting, the delegates finally voted in favor of the Einstein Telescope. This official European approval brings the project into a new phase. The scientific Institutions involved from ten countries (Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, Poland, The Netherland, UK) will now have to intensify their research and development work on the Einstein Telescope and gravitational waves. It will also speed up the ongoing subsurface studies for the characterization and evaluation of the candidate sites that could host the underground infrastructure.

A new window on the universe

The Einstein Telescope is a future underground observatory for gravitational waves. The instrument will be much more sensitive than existing gravitational-wave detectors. Therefore, the observatory will enable scientists to peek into the ‘dark ages’ of the universe for the first time. Gravitational waves were detected for the first time in 2015, and offer a new way of studying the universe. Until their first detection, scientists could only study the universe by looking at light or radiation, but with gravitational waves they can observe vibrations of spacetime itself. Although the existence of gravitational waves was already predicted by Albert Einstein a hundred years ago, he did not expect it was possible to ever detect them. Yet with the mind blowing technological developments of the last century, scientists and engineers have managed to reach the sensitivity and precision that is needed to observe them. This opened a new era in the study of the universe, the era of gravitational wave and multimessenger astronomy, and led to a Nobel prize in 2017. The Einstein Telescope will lead to many more unimaginable discoveries in the future in this new field of research.

About ESFRI and the ESFRI Roadmap

ESFRI, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures, is a strategic instrument to develop the scientific integration of Europe and to strengthen its international outreach. The mission of ESFRI is to support a coherent and strategy-led approach to policy-making on research infrastructures in Europe, and to facilitate multilateral initiatives leading to the better use and development of research infrastructures, at EU and international level. ESFRI’s delegates are nominated by the Research Ministers of the Member and Associate Countries, and include a representative of the Commission.

The ESFRI Roadmap identifies the most promising European scientific structures on the basis of an in-depth evaluation and selection procedure, and includes the ESFRI Projects, i.e. new research infrastructures under construction, and the ESFRI Landmarks, i.e. research infrastructures already implemented with success. All previous updates of the ESFRI Roadmap have proved to be very influential and have provided strategic guidance for investment by member states and associated countries, even beyond the scope of research infrastructures.

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