Saturday, December 5, 2015

LISA Pathfinder To Probe Space For Gravitational Waves

Space Missions

LISA Pathfinder in low-earth orbit
Photo Credit & Source: ESA

The European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder lifted off on Thursday, December 3rd at t 04:04 GMT on a Vega rocket from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. LISA is headed to an operational point, called L1, which is 1,5 million kilometres from the Earth towards the Sun. The spacecraft will travel for 10 weeks to reach this point in space, which is mid-February 2016; and it will begin its six-month mission at the beginning of March 2016, where it will act as a physics lab in space. The purpose of the mission is to confirm one of Einstein’s predictions contained in his General Theory of Relativity: gravitational waves. The space agency says: “Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of spacetime, predicted a century ago by Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, published on 2 December 1915. Einstein’s theory predicts that these fluctuations should be universal, generated by accelerating massive objects. However, they have not been directly detected to date because they are so tiny. For example, the ripples emitted by a pair of orbiting black holes would stretch a million kilometre-long ruler by less than the size of an atom. LISA Pathfinder will test the extraordinary technology needed to observe gravitational waves from space. At its core is a pair of identical 46 mm gold–platinum cubes separated by 38 cm, which will be isolated from all external and internal forces acting on them except one: gravity.”

LISA Pathfinder planned journey through space.
Photo Credit & SourceESA