On September 9th, the Italian government submitted an application to include the Einstein Telescope in the European roadmap for large research infrastructures. The governments of Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain support the application. Being part of this ESFRI-roadmap would recognize the importance of the Einstein Telescope for Europe.
Scientists from 41 research institutes in 10 different countries prepared the proposal together. Although Italy submitted the proposal, this does not mean the infrastructure will be located in Italy. There are currently two potential locations: Sardinia and the border area of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands (Euregio Meuse-Rhine). Both potential locations are included in the application.
The ESFRI-roadmap will be launched in October or November 2021. If the Einstein Telescope acquires the ESFRI-status, governments will have to decide whether they will apply to host the infrastructure. This will probably happen around 2023. The decision about the location will be made within the next 5 years.
Nikhef-director Stan Bentvelsen is very pleased with the progress made: “The Einstein Telescope guarantees a long future of fascinating research. This instrument detects gravitational waves with unprecedented precision and gives us a spectacular new view of our universe. The Einstein Telescope is one of the spearheads of the Nikhef strategy. I am proud that this broad consortium has successfully submitted the ESFRI application today. If the telescope will land in the Euregio Meuse-Rhine, we will gain the world’s top scientific infrastructure.”
Professor Andreas Freise works on the technical design of the Einstein Telescope, and is delighted. “The ESFRI application marks the moment when we formalise the excitement and support by others for our project. The political support by five European governments for example, and the strong interest from local regions where the Einstein Telescope could be built.”
Professor Frank Linde confirms that: “This is an important milestone for the Einstein Telescope collaboration.” And he explains the next steps: “My colleagues and I will continue to work hard to find the optimal embedding of the Einstein Telescope in the Euregio Meuse-Rhine. We are also reaching out to potential industrial partners, to develop the most challenging technological innovations together. And then hopefully, in 2024, we will present a superb bidbook to host the Einstein Telescope.”
A new window on the universe
Researchers detected gravitational waves for the first time in 2015. Their discovery provides a completely new way of studying the universe, and opens a new field of research for physics and astronomy. The Einstein Telescope 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. They will even be able to look back right to the Big Bang.
Preparations in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands
Many research institutes, governments and companies in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands are already involved. They are investigating the subsurface, working on the technological challenges and exploring the economic impact. A study from 2019 already indicates that the subsurface of the Euregio Meuse-Rhine is ‘quiet enough’ for the Einstein Telescope. The observatory can also have a significant economic impact on the Euregio. And there is plenty of interest from industry to collaborate; no less than 51 different companies attended recent webinars about technological challenges. More detailed geological studies, technological innovations and other preparations are still ongoing. Part of these activities are carried out in the projects ETpathfinder and E-TEST. A project to further support the collaboration between science and industry is being prepared at the moment.