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Pioneering probe for gravitational wave observatory ends mission

19 July 2017 Stephen Clark

The European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, now sailing around the sun on a trajectory away from Earth, was deactivated Tuesday after a nearly 18-month mission testing previously-untried lasers, vacuum enclosures, exotic gold-platinum cubes and micro-thrusters needed for a trio of gravitational wave observatories set for launch in the 2030s.

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Gravitational wave testbed repurposed as comet dust detector

26 April 2017 Stephen Clark

In the final months of Europe’s LISA Pathfinder mission, scientists have found an unexpected use for the trailblazing testbed for a future gravitational wave observatory by tracking the tiny dings made by microscopic particles that strike the spacecraft in deep space, exploiting the impacts to learn about the population of dust grains cast off by comets and asteroids across the solar system.

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Using gravitational waves to catch runaway intergalactic black holes

4 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a new method for detecting and measuring one of the most powerful, and most mysterious, events in the universe — a black hole being kicked out of its host galaxy and into intergalactic space at speeds as high as 5,000 kilometres per second (11 million miles per hour).

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Seeds of supermassive black holes could be revealed by gravitational waves

27 June 2016 Astronomy Now

Gravitational waves captured by space-based detectors could help identify the origins of supermassive black holes, according to new computer simulations. Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology ran the huge cosmological simulations that can be used to predict the rate at which gravitational waves caused by collisions between the monster black holes might be detected.

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LISA Pathfinder success bolsters plan for gravitational wave observatory

9 June 2016 Stephen Clark

Europe’s LISA Pathfinder mission — a fundamental physics lab launched last year to a point a million miles from Earth — has demonstrated the mind-boggling technology required for a future space-based observatory to listen for faint, low-frequency vibrations emitted by invisible objects in the most distant pockets of the universe, scientists said this week.

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LISA Pathfinder success paves way for space-based gravitational wave detection

9 June 2016 Astronomy Now

LISA Pathfinder, a mission led by the European Space Agency with contributions from NASA, has successfully tested key technology needed to build a space-based observatory for detecting gravitational waves. These tiny ripples in the fabric of space, predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago, were first seen last year by the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

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LISA Pathfinder on station a million miles from Earth

29 January 2016 Stephen Clark

Europe’s LISA Pathfinder mission crafted to demonstrate the ability to detect gravitational waves — theorised ubiquitous cosmic signals that have so far eluded discovery — has arrived at its operating post around the L1 Lagrange point nearly a million miles from Earth.

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Binary black holes found verging on merging

22 April 2015 Keith Cooper

Twin black holes, so close that they are gravitationally bound and orbiting around one another in the final stages before they merge to form one colossal black hole, have been found in a quasar that existed around 10.3 billion years ago.