VIRGO Virtual Visits

Link to the demonstrator: in English


Age: > 16

Duration: 3 hours

Equipment: PC with internet connection 

Contact details

Author: Dr. Valerio Boschi (EGO-Virgo)
Contact: info[at]frontiers-project[dot]eu


Virgo, based in Cascina, Pisa, Italy, is one of the three experiments in the world that is able to detect gravitational waves. Several thousands of high-school and university students visit the site every year since 2005. The demonstrator provides an interactive web-based environment for making a virtual visit of Virgo main experimental building. Students would need to understand the optical scheme of the detector in order to orientate themselves inside the labyrinth of vacuum pipes. 

Supplementary materials about the discovery of gravitational waves, the birth of multi-messenger astronomy, the operating principle of the detector and its noises is also given.

Learning outcomes:

  1. Teach students about the discovery of gravitational waves and its importance to improve our understanding of the universe.
  2. Give an idea of the experimental challenges of gravitational wave detection.
  3. Introduce basic concepts of General Relativity and Astrophysics.


Prior knowledge:

  • Newtonian Mechanics

Concepts introduced:

  • Space-time
  • Gravitational Wave
  • Black-hole
  • Interferometer 
  • Laser
  • Seismic Noise


Learning intentions:

By the end of this descriptor, students should be able to:

  • Have an idea of what are gravitational waves
  • Have an idea of what is a laser interferometer and how it works


Key activities:

  1. Slides with pictures and videos to engage
  2. Understand Virgo optical scheme
  3. Treasure hunting inside the interferometer experimental building
  4. Impressions and discussion on exploration of the detector
  5. Final report and discussion



By the end of this descriptor, students should be able to answer the following:

  1. What are gravitational waves?
  2. Why is gravitational wave detection so important?
  3. Why is it so difficult to detect gravitational waves?
  4. What is an interferometer?

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