Gravitational wave observation resumes at Japan's KAGRA facility

A huge underground facility in central Japan designed to detect gravitational waves has started making observations again for the first time in three years.

The KAGRA telescope was built in 2019 beneath a mine in Gifu Prefecture's Hida City. It was built by a team that was led by researchers from the University of Tokyo.

The goal of the telescope is to capture the tiny distortions in space and time created by mergers of celestial bodies, such as black holes and neutron stars.

By using the KAGRA, the researchers hope to find out how various elements first emerged. They also want to learn more about other mysteries in the universe.

After final checks on Wednesday, KAGRA began making observations again on Thursday at midnight.

The first observations were made in 2020, but no gravitational waves were detected.

A researcher from the University of Tokyo said the coronavirus pandemic prevented the team from making adjustments that had to be made in order to raise the detector's level of sensitivity.

The government-backed project, which was initially scheduled to end in fiscal 2022, has been extended by two years to fiscal 2024.

The team will try to detect waves intermittently over the next 18 months. It will work in collaboration with overseas facilities that have experience in the field.

Next year, the team plans to make the telescope ten times as sensitive as it is now.

Ohashi Masatake, who heads the facility, said he believes the researchers are taking a step toward contributing to the international development of gravitational-wave astronomy.

He said the researchers will make improvements to the telescope, as they continue to try to capture gravitational waves.