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Ngari No. 1 February 18, 2017

Posted by hslu in China, Do you know?, Knowledge.
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I bet that you don’t know what Ngari is. Of course, if you haven’t heard of Ngari, you probably have no idea what Ngari No. 1 and Ngari No.2 are.

Well, Ngari is an area in western Tibet and it is world-renowned as the Roof of Tibet. It is a barren plateau of 133,205 square miles roughly 17,220 feet above sea level. Its Chinese name is 阿里 (ā lǐ).

Ngari is famous because it is the site of China’s first gravitational-wave observatory, the highest in the world. 

Ngari 1 is the site of the first phase of the telescope designed to gather data on primordial gravitational waves in the northern hemisphere. It will be operational by 2021. The second phase, Ngari No. 2, will consist of a series of telescopes installed about 20,000 feet above sea level.

Of course, Ngari was chosen for the newest telescope because its high altitude, clear sky, minimum light interference and low human activities, ideal for studying the ripples in the spacetime in cosmic light. 

The Ngari project is sponsored by three institutions: Institution of High Energy Physics, National Astronomical Observatories and Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology.

Gravitational waved was first predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916. They are ripples in the curvature of spacetime which is the fabric of the universe.

These waves are actual physical ripples which stretch and squeeze the space they exist in. 

For 100 years after Einstein first predicted the existence of gravitational waves, none of this elusive waves have ever been detected until February 11, 2016. Two groups jointly declared the detection of the wave produced by the merge of two black holes 1.3 billion years ago. Now the scientists around the world are racing to capture and study the cosmic waves.

On December 13, 2016, the Ngari No. 1 project was officially lauched by the China Institute of High-Energy Physics, a division of the Chinese Academy of Science. The project is aimed to create a highly sensitive experiment on primordial gravitational waves. It will likely be a stepping stone for other cosmological studies such as the evolution of the universe, dark matter and dark energy. 

But, let’s face it, China is new to this field and it has a rather steep learning curve to climb. Close corporation with top scientists around the world is definitely needed.

Actually, what is surprising to me is that China is in the project and is committed to build the telescope in the first place.

I do have a few questions but I don’t think I’ll find any answers in the public domain:

Why did China even participate in this kind of fundamental research at all? 

What did China expect to get out of from this project? 

What are gravitational waves or ripples in the spacetime to China?

Which government official approved this project and what was the total cost of the entire project?

Will China’s participation in this project make any meaningful contribution to the gravitational waves and related research?

Will Ngari No. 1 and Ngari No. 2 find any gravitational waves?

What other cosmology projects are on the drawing board in China?

What’s before the “Big Bang” and should we care about it at all?




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