Einstein Telescope

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Einstein Telescope
Named afterAlbert Einstein Edit this on Wikidata
Telescope stylegravitational-wave observatory Edit this on Wikidata
Websitewww.et-gw.eu Edit this at Wikidata

Einstein Telescope (ET) or Einstein Observatory, is a proposed third-generation ground-based gravitational wave detector, currently under study by some institutions in the European Union. It will be able to test Einstein's general theory of relativity in strong field conditions and realize precision gravitational wave astronomy.

The ET is a design study project supported by the European Commission under the Framework Programme 7 (FP7). It concerns the study and the conceptual design for a new research infrastructure in the emergent field of gravitational-wave astronomy.


The evolution of the current gravitational wave detectors Advanced Virgo and Advanced LIGO, as second generation detectors, is well defined. Currently they have been upgraded to their so-called enhanced level and they are expected to reach their design sensitivity in the next few years. LIGO detected gravitational waves in 2015 and Virgo joined this experimental success with the first gravitational wave observed by three detectors GW170814 and shortly after with the first detection of a binary neutron star merger GW170817. Nevertheless, the sensitivity needed to test Einstein's theory of gravity in strong field conditions or to realize a precision gravitational wave astronomy, mainly of massive stellar bodies or of highly asymmetric (in mass) binary stellar systems, goes beyond the expected performances of the advanced detectors and of their subsequent upgrades. For example, the fundamental limitations at low frequency of the sensitivity of the second generation detectors are given by the seismic noise, the related gravitational gradient noise (so-called Newtonian noise) and the thermal noise of the suspension last stage and of the test masses.

To circumvent these limitations new infrastructures are necessary: an underground site for the detector, to limit the effect of the seismic noise, and cryogenic facilities to cool down the mirrors to directly reduce the thermal vibration of the test masses.[1]

Technical groups[edit]

Through its four technical working groups, the ET-FP7 project is addressing the basic questions in the realization of this proposed observatory: site location and characteristics (WP1), suspension design and technologies (WP2), detector topology and geometry (WP3), detection capabilities requirements and astrophysics potentialities (WP4).


ET is a design study project in the European Framework Programme (FP7). It has been proposed by 8 European leading gravitational wave experimental research institutes, coordinated by the European Gravitational Observatory:[2]

Current design[edit]

Although still in the early design study phase, the basic parameters are established.[3]

Like KAGRA, it will be located underground to reduce seismic noise and "gravity gradient noise" caused by nearby moving objects.

The arms will be 10 km long (compared to 4 km for LIGO, and 3 km for Virgo and KAGRA), and like LISA, there will be three arms in an equilateral triangle, with two detectors in each corner.

In order to measure the polarization of incoming gravitational waves and avoid having an orientation to which the telescope is insensitive, a minimum of two detectors are required. While this could be done with two 90° interferometers at 45° to each other, the triangular form allows the arms to be shared. The 60° arm angle reduces each interferometer's sensitivity, but that is made up for by the third detector, and the additional redundancy provides a useful cross-check.

Each of the three detectors would be composed of two interferometers, one optimized for operation below 30 Hz and one optimized for operation at higher frequencies.

The low-frequency interferometers (1 to 250 Hz) will use optics cooled to 10 K (−441.7 °F; −263.1 °C), with a beam power of about 18 kW in each arm cavity.[3]: 15–16  The high-frequency ones (10 Hz to 10 kHz) will use room-temperature optics and a much higher recirculating beam power of 3 MW.[3]: 15 


A prototype, or testing facility, called the ETpathfinder was built at Maastricht University's Randwyck Campus in the Netherlands.[4] The facility was opened in November 2021 by Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven. Project leader is Professor Stefan Hild. ETpathfinder will be a useful research centre in its own right after the ET has been built. The Maastricht region (Meuse–Rhine Euroregion) is one of the candidates for the ET.[5]

See also[edit]

  • Tests of general relativity
  • EGO, the European Gravitational Observatory
  • LIGO, two gravitational wave detectors located in the United States
  • Virgo, a gravitational wave detector located in Italy
  • GEO 600, a gravitational wave detector located in Hannover, Germany
  • Einstein@Home, a volunteer distributed computing program to help the LIGO/GEO teams analyze their data


  1. ^ Stefan Hild; Simon Chelkowski; Andreas Freise (2008-11-24), Pushing towards the ET sensitivity using 'conventional' technology, arXiv:0810.0604, Bibcode:2008arXiv0810.0604H
  2. ^ ET Design Study Participants Archived 2016-08-15 at the Wayback Machine 10 October 2008.
  3. ^ a b c ET Science Team (June 28, 2011). Einstein gravitational wave telescope conceptual design study (Report). ET-0106C-10.
  4. ^ Prototype Einstein Telescope komt in pand 'zwarte doos' in Maastricht
  5. ^ 'Looking back on ETpathfinder's opening', maastrichtuniversity.nl, 9 November 2021.

Further reading[edit]