Paris, 1st December 2015

LISA Pathfinder : a step toward gravitational wave detection

In the night from 1st to 2nd December, the European Space Agency (ESA) is expected to launch its LISA Pathfinder satellite, whose development has involved the contribution of the Astroparticle and Cosmology laboratory (operated jointly by the CNRS, Université Paris Diderot, CEA and Observatoire de Paris). It will showcase the ambitious eLISA mission, a series of three satellites designed for gravitational wave detection. The goal is to spot these ripples in space-time which, one century after they were predicted by Albert Einstein, continue to escape detection. Another objective is to develop a new field of observation, called gravitational astronomy, in order to study the astrophysical objects causing these waves. Virgo and LIGO, two ground-based instruments in which French laboratories are heavily involved, also take part in this challenge.



Top: LISA Pathfinder and its propulsion module, immediately after their separation (artist's impression).
Bottom: gold-platinum cubes floating inside the satellite, surrounded by the optical bench that makes it possible to measure their position with unprecedented accuracy. This is one example of the technology needed to detect gravitational waves, which will be tested with LISA Pathfinder.

More images (videos, photographs) of LISA Pathfinder are available on the ESA's website.


© NASA/Dana Berry, Sky Works Digital

When two neutron stars (or two black holes) closely revolve around each other, they undergo a strong acceleration, which generates gravitational waves. This emission of gravitational waves corresponds to a loss of energy that brings the two stars closer together until they eventually merge (artist's impression).


© EGO-VIRGO/IN2P3/CNRS Photothèque

Aerial view of the Virgo gravitational wave detector (near Pisa, Italy).



CNRS researchers l Eric Plagnol (LISA Pathfinder) l T +33 (0)1 57 27 93 52 l
Benoît Mours (Virgo, LIGO) l T +33 (0)4 50 09 55 21 l
Researcher l Pierre Binetruy (eLISA) l T +33 (0)1 57 27 60 43 l
CNRS press office l Véronique Etienne l T +33 (0)1 44 96 51 37 l


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