Saturday, July 1, 2017

3 coordinated spacecraft will study Einstein-predicted gravitational waves in space in a new ESA mission with NASA - PHYSICS

ESA (the European Space Agency) has selected the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) for its third large-class mission in the agency's Cosmic Vision science program. The three-spacecraft constellation is designed to study gravitational waves in space and is a concept long studied by both ESA and NASA.

ESA’s Science Program Committee announced the selection at a meeting on June 20. The mission will now be designed, budgeted and proposed for adoption before construction begins. LISA is expected to launch in 2034. NASA will be a partner with ESA in the design, development, operations and data analysis of the mission.

Gravitational radiation was predicted a century ago by Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity. Massive accelerating objects such as merging black holes produce waves of energy that ripple through the fabric of space and time. Indirect proof of the existence of these waves came in 1978, when subtle changes observed in the motion of a pair of orbiting neutron stars showed energy was leaving the system in an amount matching predictions of energy carried away by gravitational waves.

In September 2015, these waves were first directly detected by the National Science Foundation’s ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). The signal arose from the merger of two stellar-mass black holes located some 1.3 billion light-years away. Similar signals from other black hole mergers have since been detected.

Source and further reading:

Image: Merging black holes. Credit: ESA/C. Carreau

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