News

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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Detonating white dwarfs as supernovae

5 October 2016 Astronomy Now

A new mathematical model created by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History details a way that dead stars called white dwarfs could detonate, producing a type of explosion that is instrumental to measuring the extreme distances in our universe. The mechanism could improve our understanding of how Type Ia supernovae form.

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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.