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One small ripple for spacetime, one giant leap for cosmology

13 Aug 2020, 12:15 UTC
One small ripple for spacetime, one giant leap for cosmology
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Title: Gravitational-Wave Lunar Observatory for CosmologyAuthors: Karan Jani and Abraham LoebFirst Author’s Institution: Department of Physics & Astronomy, Vanderbilt University and Department of Astronomy, Harvard UniversityStatus: Submitted to Physical Review Letters
Detectors dancing in the moonlightThe precision engineering required for gravitational wave astronomy is simply astounding: a giant system of mirrors and lasers spanning a distance of multiple kilometers, that are sensitive enough to detect a ripple in spacetime that is 10,000 times smaller than the size of a proton. If this doesn’t sound impressive enough to you, now imagine building it on the moon.That’s exactly what the authors of today’s paper propose: a gravitational wave (GW) detector on the moon. Before discussing exactly why a lunar GW detector would be beneficial, let’s go over some of the basics of GW observation in general.In order to detect gravitational waves, you need an interferometer, a system designed to allow different beams of light to travel distinct paths and then later be combined to create interference patterns. When something happens to change the distance that one of the beams travels (such as a passing gravitational wave), the interference pattern changes, and this can be recorded and analyzed. In general, the larger the ...

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