Deep Outerspace
Galaxies in deep space are seen in a 2005 handout photo from NASA. A giant hole in the Universe is devoid of galaxies, stars and even lacks dark matter, astronomers said on Thursday. REUTERS

The recent launch of the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) by the European Space Agency (ESA) has paved the way for future research into space-time ripples. LISA, projected as a dry run to a new technology for similar future research, has already started trials from space.

According to the ESA, LISA Pathfinder will test the extraordinary technology needed to observe gravitational waves from space. Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of space-time, predicted a century ago by Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

Einstein predicted that these fluctuations should be universal, generated by accelerating massive objects. He explained that massive objects in space warp or bend it, not unlike a ball rolling around on a piece of stretchy fabric. If we could directly observe these ripples, we could solve many space mysteries, such as the merger of massive black holes.

These fluctuations are, however, so tiny that the ripples emitted by a pair of orbiting black holes would stretch a million kilometre-long ruler by less than the width of an atom, reports the Herald Voice. LISA is expected to reach its operational orbit in about 10 weeks after launch, around mid-February.

The LISA tests, currently in progress, are expected to lay the foundations for future gravitational wave observatories in space. The ESA statement said that mankind’s entire knowledge about the universe is based upon the observation of electromagnetic waves, such as visible light, infrared, ultraviolet, radio, X-rays and gamma rays.

“LISA Pathfinder will pave the way to a completely different method of observing the universe: detecting gravitational waves. This will allow astrophysicists to address some of the most fundamental questions about the universe and possibly raise new ones, such as the nature of binary black holes and their mergers, which are among the most powerful events in the universe,” said the launch statement.

If things go as planned, the real LISA mission could be launched by 2034.

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