Japan physicists laud detection of gravity waves by U.S. team

JIJI, Kyodo

A Japanese research team led by Nobel laureate Takaaki Kajita issued a statement Friday congratulating a U.S. group for detecting gravitational waves for the first time.

The confirmation of the existence of gravitational waves is a “historic” breakthrough that researchers in the field have long worked toward, said the Japanese team, which has also been trying to detect them.

The waves carry information about the origin of the universe and gravity. The team has been using the Kagra large-scale cryogenic telescope, now under construction at the Kamioka mine in Gifu Prefecture.

Kajita, the Kagra group leader and also head of the University of Tokyo’s Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, said the group hopes to “complete the construction, achieve high (measurement) sensitivity and join the international gravitational wave (observation) network as soon as possible.”

The detection of the waves, predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago, was announced Thursday by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, team, including researchers from the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I emphatically congratulate the LIGO laboratory for discovering evidence of gravitational waves. It is a historical achievement that all researchers of gravitational waves and the theory of general relativity have been waiting for,” Kajita said.

He said he hopes to participate in the global network of gravitational-wave observation as soon as possible using Kagra, and contribute to the new field of study in gravitational wave astronomy.

“This is a wonderful discovery, which paves the way for exploration of the universe,” said Hirosi Ooguri, professor at California Institute of Technology, who specializes in theoretical physics. “I believe that with the usage of Japan’s advanced technology such as the one used in the large-scale gravitational wave detector Kagra, we can expect a significant advancement in gravitational wave astronomy in the future.”

Hitoshi Murayama, a particle physicist and director of the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe at the University of Tokyo, also expressed his astonishment.

“They observed that gravitational waves moved mirrors only by a tiny distance, a thousandth of the size of the proton. Technologically, this is a phenomenal feat,” Murayama said.