B. Schutz - The promise and challenge of detecting gravitational waves from space

Bernard Schutz (Albert-Einstein Institute, Max-Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, Germany): The promise and challenge of detecting gravitational waves from space

Wed May 6, 2010 (KIAA):  4:00 p.m. 

Space is the natural environment for building gravitational wave detectors: it is quiet and big. The first gravitational-wave mission, LISA, will have extraordinary sensitivity, reaching back even earlier than the first stars to probe the universe for the very first black hole binaries. Gravitational-wave astronomy complements electromagnetic astronomy, allowing us to "hear" in waves what we can't see in light. LISA's sensitivity will be so great that the scientific exploitation of its data will depend more on unravelling confusion among competing strong signals than upon separating the signals from instrumental noise. The success of LISA will require mastering the technology of stillness: creating inside the spacecraft the quietest environment in the solar system. These techniques will be tested in 2012 by the LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, and may well find their way into future missions to measure the Earth's gravitational field with enough sensitivity to monitor variations in the geography of our planet in real time.

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