Getting ready for next time

European gravitational-wave community strengthens its space collaboration

May 25, 2012
During the 9th international LISA Symposium, held May 21 – 25 in Paris, the international LISA* community analyzed the new situation after ESA's decision to choose JUICE for Europe's next large space science mission. As the eLISA** mission, despite not being selected, was reported to have been unanimously ranked first by ESA's scientific review committee in terms of scientific interest, strategic value for science and strategic value for the projects in Europe, the community is in good spirits: this is the first time that any space agency committee has ranked a gravitational wave observatory as its highest scientific priority. In order to prepare a strongest possible bid for the next launch opportunity the community has decided to continue its collaboration as the self-funded and independent eLISA consortium.

Besides preparing for the next competition the consortium will strongly support ESA's LISA Pathfinder mission, whose launch in 2014 will finally open the door to approval of a full gravitational wave mission. LPF will demonstrate key gravity-measuring technologies in space for the first time, preparing the way not only for gravitational wave detectors but also for next-generation Earth and planetary gravimetry.

The eLISA consortium consists of a management board, a steering committee, and working groups in science, technology and data analysis. It represents the European states involved in eLISA, i.e. Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and UK. The consortium is led by Prof. Dr. Karsten Danzmann, who chaired the former LISA International Science Team and is a director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI) and a professor at the Leibniz Universität in Hannover, Germany.

“Our goal is to keep this highly motivated and effective scientific community together. It has attracted many young and excellent researchers. The knowledge and innovative potential of our community is documented in more than 2000 published scientific papers - we want to keep it working on a strong science, technology and data analysis programme”, says Karsten Danzmann, describing the role of the eLISA consortium.

Colleagues from the US, China and possibly other interested countries will be invited to participate. At the LISA Symposium, US participants presented results on a comparative study of low-cost LISA variants and expressed interest in contributing to an ESA-led mission. And for the first time, a large Chinese delegation participated in the LISA Symposium and announced their scientific interest in a close collaboration on a gravitational wave mission. The Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Space Agency are developing their own plans for a gravitational wave detector in space. 


LISA*: Laser Interferometer Space Antenna

eLISA**: evolved Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, also known as NGO (New Gravitational-Wave Observatory)

What is unique about eLISA

It opens a completely new field, low-frequency gravitational-wave astronomy, which will make the complete Universe accessible to us, all the way back to the dark ages. It is a field where Europe dominates in technology. Europe can be as dominant in this important field, which will make many new discoveries, as it is now in particle physics because of CERN.

Benefits for science and society

eLISA speaks to the cultural imperative to know more about our universe and its history back to the big bang. eLISA´s technology for gravity measurement in space has practical importance for society: it is already being incorporated into Earth geodesy missions. And by enabling us to listen to the Universe, eLISA will immediately catch the attention of the public and make them much more aware of European space science.

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