The NSF's Advanced LIGO and the European Virgo observatory have established a new era in astronomy. The discoveries made by these second-generation gravitational-wave detectors have had a transformative impact, even though they are only able to observe a small fraction of the Universe. Taking full advantage of the rich promise of gravitational-wave astronomy will require a new network of third-generation detectors that can survey the Universe on its largest scales to provide answers to questions of broad interest in astrophysics, cosmology, fundamental physics, and nuclear physics. This award funds U.S. participation in the international effort to develop a third-generation gravitational-wave network; initiate a coordinated program to study third-generation gravitational-wave science targets, networks, and detector configurations; and support the U.S. role in planning the future of gravitational-wave astronomy. Third-generation detectors will expand humanity's ability to listen to the cosmic symphony of gravitational waves out to the very edge of the Universe. This award broadens opportunities for underrepresented students and provides students and postdocs with exposure to cutting-edge instrument technology, as well as project planning and management opportunities, positioning them well for scientific leadership positions. The technology development required to realize a next-generation detector will expand collaboration with and drive improvements in industry.
This award leverages the decades-long investment by the NSF in LIGO and will position the U.S. to be a leadership partner in the future of gravitational-wave astronomy and physics. It will fund an effort to: (i) work with the Gravitational Wave International Committee (GWIC) to develop and document the international community's vision for third-generation science; (ii) extend the catalog of third-generation candidate detector designs, exploring configurations that were not included in previous international studies like the European Einstein Telescope; (iii) produce parametric cost estimates for the configurations that are identified; (iv) explore pathways to achieving a successful third-generation global network; and (v) define metrics for the network's discovery potential as a function of cost.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.