LISA, a collaborative mission between ESA and
The LISA mission will enable observations of gravitational waves produced by the merger of supermassive black holes, seen here in a computer simulation. Most large galaxies contain central black holes weighing millions of times the mass of our Sun. When these galaxies collide, eventually so do their black holes. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Scott Noble; simulation data, d’Ascoli et al. 2018
NASA will provide several key components of LISA’s instrument suite, along with scientific and engineering support. NASA’s contributions include lasers, telescopes and devices to reduce disturbances caused by electromagnetic charges. LISA will use this equipment to measure precise changes in distance, caused by gravitational waves, over millions of kilometers in space. ESA will provide the spacecraft and supervise the international team during the development and operation of the mission.
Gravitational waves: revealing cosmic secrets
Gravitational waves were predicted by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity more than a century ago. They are produced by the acceleration of masses, like a pair of orbiting black holes. As these waves remove orbital energy, the distance between the objects gradually decreases over millions of years, and eventually they merge.
These ripples in the fabric of space went unnoticed until 2015, when LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory funded by the US National Science Foundation, measured gravitational waves from the merger of two black holes. This discovery fostered a new field of science called “multimessenger astronomy,” in which gravitational waves could be used in conjunction with other cosmic “messengers” — light and particles — to observe the universe in new ways.
Along with other ground-based facilities, LIGO has since observed dozens of other