University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Physics and Astronomy Calendar

Monday, April 11th 2016
12:15 pm:
Speaker: Giacomo Ciani - University of Florida
Subject: LISA Pathfinder: (free)-falling like never before

The recent announcement by the LIGO scientific collaboration has spurred excitement for the first direct detection of gravitational waves. However, the physical information contained in the signal is the real prize of this endeavor: the goal of the gravitational-wave community is to use routine detections as a tool to do astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology. To achieve this, we must cover as much of the gravitational-wave frequency spectrum as possible, in the same way we do with EM astronomy. LISA, a joint ESA-NASA space-borne interferometer designed to explore the signal-rich band from 0.1 to 100 mHz, has been officially canceled in 2011 due to budget constraints at NASA; it has however left two important legacies: eLISA and LISA Pathfinder. eLISA is a concept which is the baseline design for ESA's L3 large mission, currently projected to be lunched in 2034 with a likely contribution from NASA as a junior partner. LISA Pathfinder is a space mission designed to demonstrate free-fall at the unprecedented level of 30 fm/s^2/Hz^{1/2} spurious acceleration at 1 mHz, just a factor 10 short of what is needed for eLISA and several orders of magnitude better than any other space mission flown or under development. In doing this, it tests the core technologies likely needed by any interferometric GW space mission concept. LISA Pathfinder was lunched last December from the ESA spaceport in French Guiana, and started scientific operations at the beginning of March. Although official results are not yet available, I'll describe the mission design, its goals, the main technologies it is testing and the most recent updates and expectations.

Faculty Host: Shaul Hanany

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