By Trudy E. Bell and Dr. Tony Phillips
Around 2015, NASA and the European Space Agency plan to launch one of the biggest and most exacting space experiments ever flown: LISA, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna.
|LISA will be able to detect gravitational waves from as far back as 10-36 second after the Big Bang, far earlier than any telescope can detect. (Click image for larger view.)|
"It's a profound data-analysis problem that ground-based astronomers don't encounter," says E. Sterl Phinney, professor of theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Profound, but not hopeless: "We have lots of good ideas and plans that workóin theory," he says. "The goal now is to prove that they actually work under real conditions, and to make sure we haven't forgotten something."
To that end, theorists and instrument-designers have been spending time together brainstorming, testing ideas, scrutinizing plans, figuring out how they'll pluck individual voices from the cacophony. And they're making progress on computer codes to do the job.
Says Bonny Schumaker, a member of the LISA team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory: "It's a challenge more than a problem, and in fact, when overcome, a gift of information from the universe."
For more info about LISA, see http://lisa.nasa.gov . Kids can learn about black holes and play the new "Black Hole Rescue!" game on The Space Place Web site at http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/en/kids/blackhole/ .
This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.