Quirks & Quarks

LISA Pathfinder holds space very still

The LISA Pathfinder mission is meant to test technologies that will allow space-based gravitational wave detection

Test mission for space-based gravitational wave detection has remarkable success

Artist's impression of the LISA Pathfinder spacecraft (ESA-C.Carreau)
The LISA Pathfinder mission, launched by the European Space Agency in December, was designed to test technology for a future, giant, space-based gravitational wave observatory. Such a mission would follow up on the first detection of gravitational waves last year by the earth-based LIGO project.

LISA Pathfinder's biggest challenge was finding a way to insulate the test-masses in the spacecraft from every possibly disturbance - from magnetic fields, to the tiny pressure of radiation from the Sun, and even from the gravity of the spacecraft itself.

Dr. Paul McNamara, the Project Scientist for the LISA Pathfinder, and his colleagues, announced this week they were successful in creating, inside their spacecraft, the quietest environment in the galaxy.

Related Links

Paper in Physical Review Letters
LISA Pathfinder - European Space Agency
- APS Physics story
- Scientific American story
Sky & Telescope story