Proposed NASA mission employs 'lobster-eye' optics to locate source of cosmic ripples

phys.org | 10/26/2017 | Staff
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A novel optics system that mimics the structure of a lobster's eyes would enable a conceptual Explorer-class mission to precisely locate, characterize, and alert other observatories to the source of gravitational waves, which are caused by some of the most powerful events in the universe.

The Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will study the feasibility of the Transient Astrophysics Observatory on the International Space Station, or ISS-TAO. The mission was selected, along with two other similarly classed concepts, as a potential Explorer Mission of Opportunity. In 2019, NASA is expected to choose one concept for construction and launch.

Mission - Today - Mission - Principal - Investigator

"This mission is more relevant today than ever before," said mission Principal Investigator Jordan Camp, who is leading an international team to mature the concept and fine-tune its two instruments: a Goddard-provided soft X-ray Wide-Field Imager, or WFI, and the Israel Space Agency-provided Gamma-Ray Transient Monitor.

"The detection of gravitational waves in late 2015 was a watershed event," Camp said. "Gravitational waves are so different, so new. We want a way to connect conventional electromagnetic astronomy with this emerging science."

Perch - International - Space - Station - ISS

From its perch aboard the International Space Station, or ISS, the mission would monitor the sky in search of transient X-rays and gamma rays—those fleeting, hard-to-capture, high-energy photons unleashed during black-hole and neutron-star mergers and supernovae. These powerful upheavals generate gravitational waves.

First postulated by Albert Einstein a century ago, gravitational waves are produced when massive objects moving close to the speed of light spiral together and merge in the universe. The movement and resulting collision create waves in the fabric of space-time, radiating out in all directions, much like how water ripples when a stone is thrown into a pond.

Year - Bombshell - Announcement - Scientists - Laser

Last year in a bombshell announcement, scientists revealed that the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, or LIGO, had detected gravitational waves from not one,...
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