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ESA's LISA Pathfinder Completes Freefall Test, Now a Step Closer in Building Space-Based Observatory

Jun 09, 2016 04:30 AM EDT

The European Space Agency (ESA) successfully tested a technology for detecting gravitational pull during a true freefall of two cubed objects encased in a metal casing. This probe will lead to the development of a space-based observatory to hunt gravitational waves from the planet, scientists said.

ESA's Laser Interferometre Space Antenna (Lisa) Pathfinder held two small cubes independent from each other, during the experiment, the cubes only relied on gravity. This set-up now holds the record for a true freefall. According to the scientists involved with the mission, it had 'exceeded expectations' and paved the way for ESA to develop their future plans in searching for gravitational waves.

"Only by reducing and eliminating all other sources of disturbance we could observe the most perfect free fall ever created," said Professor Karsten Danzmann, director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, in a statement published by Daily Mail. "With LISA Pathfinder we have created the quietest place known to humankind," Danzmann added.

From the result of the experiments, scientists are hopeful that they will be able to build a space-based gravitational wave observatory, which is expected to obtain more data as compared to Earth-borne equipment. According to the same report, this breakthrough finding will help the future of astronomy by allowing scientists to detect even the weakest signals in space such as black holes and dark matter.

Because gravitational waves are invisible, they are a bit difficult to detect. These are ripples in space-time as suggested by Albert Einstein in his theory of general relativity, according to a report by Space.com. But according to experts, the ripples or gravitational waves can be detected using precise equipment just like the proposed space-based observatory.

ESA plans to launch the new observatory in 2034 using the freefalling technology recently showcased by LISA and the two cubes who successfully completed freefalling relying on gravity alone.

 

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