LISA mission gets go-ahead from ESA to study the ripples of spacetime

2024 Feb 1

The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) will detect and study gravitational waves from space. Ikerbasque researcher at DIPC Silvia Bonoli is part of the consortium working on the scientific interpretation of LISA datastream

LISA mission gets go-ahead from ESA to study the ripples of spacetime
Credit: ESA

The Science Programme Committee of the European Space Agency (ESA) approved the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission, the first scientific endeavour to detect and study gravitational waves from space. This important step, formally called ‘adoption’, recognises that the mission concept and technology are sufficiently advanced, and gives the go-ahead to build the instruments and spacecraft. This work will start in January 2025 once a European industrial contractor has been chosen.

LISA is not just one spacecraft but a constellation of three. They will trail Earth in its orbit around the Sun, forming an exquisitely accurate equilateral triangle in space. Each side of the triangle will be 2.5 million km long (more than six times the Earth-Moon distance), and the spacecraft will exchange laser beams over this distance. The launch of the three spacecraft is planned for 2035, on an Ariane 6 rocket.

Led by ESA, LISA is made possible by a collaboration between ESA, its Member State space agencies, NASA, and an international consortium of scientists (the LISA consortium).

The Ikerbasque researcher at DIPC Silvia Bonoli is a member of the astrophysics group of the LISA consortium and one of the authors of a publication in Living Reviews in Relativity that outlines the extensive landscape of astrophysical theory, numerical simulations, and astronomical observations that are instrumental for modelling and interpreting the upcoming LISA datastream. “LISA will be a transformative experiment for gravitational wave astronomy, and, as such, it will offer unique opportunities to address many key astrophysical questions in a completely novel way. The next decade is crucial to prepare the astrophysical community for the interpretation of LISA's first observations,” says Bonoli.

Bonoli is currently co-coordinator of the group working on the comparison of predictions for the merger rates of massive black holes that LISA will detect. “Massive black holes are some of the most fascinating objects in our Universe. We still do not know where they come from and how frequently they interact with each other. With LISA we will certainly learn many new things about them,” concludes Bonoli.

More info at ESA website.

Silvia Bonoli, Ikerbasque researcher at DIPC