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 second 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 second and third 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 Virgo Collaboration, coming from more than 100 institutions in 10 different European countries. A map of the Virgo Collaboration can be found here.
“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 in the first three months we managed to increase Virgo’s sensitivity from 30 kpc to about 30 Mpc. Then Virgo joined 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!”