Lunar LIGO: A new concept in gravitational wave astronomy


For three decades, physicists have been in search of an elusive phenomenon predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity; gravitational radiation. These weak vibrations of spacetime have, thus far, eluded conclusive Earth-based detection due in part to insufficient detector sensitivity and noise isolation. The detection of gravitational waves is crucial for two reasons. It would provide further evidence for the validity of Einstein's theory of relativity, the presently accepted theory of gravitation. Furthermore, the ability to identify the location of a source of a detected gravitational wave event would yield a radical new type of astronomy based on non-electromagnetic emissions. We continue our study of a lunar-based system which can provide an important complement to Earth-based analysis because it is completely independent of the geophysical sources of noise on Earth, while providing an Earth-Moon baseline for pin-pointing burst sources in the Universe. We also propose for the first time that a simplified version of the LIGO beam detector optical system, which we will call LLIGO (Lunar LIGO), could be emplaced on the Moon as part of NASA's robotic lander program now under study (Artemis). The Earth-based investigation has two major programs underway. Both involve large interferometer-type gravitational wave antennas

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This paper was published in NASA Technical Reports Server.

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