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!"