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Giovanni Losurdo, research director at the Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) in Italy, has been appointed as the new Spokesperson of the Virgo Collaboration. From 2009 to 2017, he was Project Leader of Advanced Virgo, the programme of upgrades to the detector that made it possible for Virgo to participate alongside the two LIGO detectors, in the US, in the 2nd observation period, called ‘O2’.
Giovanni succeeds Jo van den Brand, from Nikhef, Amsterdam, and professor at Maastricht University in The Netherlands, who has served as Virgo Spokesperson from the 1st of May 2017 to the 30th of April 2020. Jo’s tenure covered both the 2nd and 3rd joint-observation periods with the LIGO detectors, which have produced a wealth of scientific results.
The Spokesperson represents the 550 scientists, engineers and technicians of the Collaboration, coming from more than 100 institutions in 10 different European countries. A map of the Virgo Collaboration can be found at http://public.virgo-gw.eu/the-virgo-collaboration/.
"Over the next few years we will face very important and exciting challenges,” stated the newly-elected Spokesperson, “We will start with a substantial upgrade of the detector, which will allow us to explore a bigger and bigger portion of our universe. In the next data-taking period, for instance, we aim to observe coalescences of neutron stars that are at a distance of up to 300 million light years from us. Subsequently, our collaborations and relations with other astronomers and physicist communities will become even more intense and will have to become even more effective. This will enable us to achieve a deeper understanding of the physics behind the detected events, to further develop multi-messenger astronomy and to fine-tune technologies needed for the next generation of gravitational detectors, such as the Einstein Telescope."
“It has been an honour serving the Virgo Collaboration these last three years” says Jo van den Brand. “Rapid commissioning of Virgo was of paramount importance and allowed Virgo to join data taking with the LIGO detectors. We immediately made spectacular detections and kicked off the new field of multi-messenger astronomy with gravitational waves. After upgrading and commissioning Virgo to double the sensitivity up to 61 Mpc, we carried out observing run O3. Although COVID-19 forced us to suspend the run early, O3 was a big success. No less than 56 non-retracted alerts were released and the collaboration is now working enthusiastically to extract the science from the O3 data. I thank my colleagues in the Virgo Collaboration and at EGO for their dedication, their inspiring and critical discussions, and their creativity that allowed Virgo to succeed. I am certain that with Giovanni they are in good hands, and I wish him all the best!”
“My best wishes to Giovanni Losurdo, new elected Spokesperson of the Virgo Collaboration – said Stavros Katsanevas, director of the European Gravitational Observatory, EGO – and my sincere thanks to the departing Spokesperson Jo van den Brand, with whom the coordination and collaboration were excellent, for his achievements and the way he steered the Virgo collaboration during the past crucial years. The next years will be especially demanding for the new spokesperson and all us, even because of the current pandemic, but I’m sure they will bring new extraordinary successes to Virgo and to the whole gravitational waves community.”
Giovanni Losurdo is a research director at the Pisa division of the Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN). He began working on the Virgo experiment in the 1990s, dealing first with the development of the ‘superattenuator’ - under the supervision of Adalberto Giazotto - with the construction and fine tuning of the detector and then with the successive upgrades. From 2009 to 2017, he was Project Leader for the Advanced Virgo project, the upgrade programme of the detector, which made possible the Virgo observation of gravitational waves in August 2017 and contributed to the development of a completely new way of observing the cosmos: multi-messenger astronomy. Losurdo has been awarded the Premio Galilei per la Scienza and the Premio Tartufari per la Fisica e la Chimica of the Italian Accademia dei Lincei. He has been honoured by the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella, with the recognition of Commendatore dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana and, since 2019, has been is a corresponding member of the Italian Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei since 2019.
Advanced Virgo is a laser interferometer, built for the detection of gravitational waves and located in Cascina, in the province of Pisa, which is hosted by the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO). The detector was founded in 2000 by the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) and the French Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS). More than 500 physicists, engineers and technicians from more than 100 institutions in 10 different European countries constitute the Virgo Collaboration (http://public.virgo-gw.eu/the-virgo-collaboration/). In addition to Italy and France, The Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, Spain, Germany, Belgium and Portugal participate in the experiment. The detector consists of two 3 km-long perpendicular arms, inside which a laser beam propagates, is reflected and transmitted by mirrors to lengthen its path, and then recombines to form interference fringes. When a gravitational wave passes through the interferometer it produces a variation in the length of the arms: one lengthens, while the other shortens. These changes in length, which are much smaller than the dimension of a proton, produce a phase shift in the laser light, which is observed at the output of the detector. For the design of the experiment, technologies that are unique in the world have been developed and implemented. A description of the Advanced Virgo detector is available at http://public.virgo-gw.eu/advanced-virgo/
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