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Catching a Ripple in Space-Time: JPL Mission to Detect Gravitational Waves

March 27, 2011

JPL, in conjunction with the European Space Agency and NASA, is preparing a mission for 2020 named LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna).   Its purpose is to try and detect a ripple in time/space (gravitational wave).   Consider the possibilities if they succeed… it will be the first step to really understanding the mysteries of the gravitational force; a  force which has perplexed physicists searching for a ‘theory of everything’ for over a century.  Perhaps what they find will once and for all allow us to make sense of the how all of the currently known forces work together on both the macro and micro levels.  And what if, just like electricity, we can harness the power of the ripple long before we understand exactly how and why it works.

Artists rendition of proposed LISA mission which would include three craft. Image credit: ESA

The article notes that the mystery surrounding two pulsars first led us to indirectly observe what is believed to be gravitational waves.

“…1974, researchers discovered a pair of orbiting dead stars — a type called pulsars — that were spiraling closer and closer together due to an unexplainable loss of energy. That energy was later shown to be in the form of gravitational waves.”

The article goes on to note that this mission if successful would give us a whole new way of looking at our universe:

“LISA is expected to not only “hear” the waves, but also learn more about their sources — massive objects such as black holes and dead stars, which sing the waves like melodies out to the universe as the objects accelerate through space and time. The mission would be able to detect gravitational waves from massive objects in our Milky Way galaxy as well as distant galaxies, allowing scientists to tune into an entirely new language of our universe.”

Read the full article:  Tuning an ‘Ear’ to the Music of Gravitational Waves – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


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