“Einstein’s Ear”: Tuning into Gravity Waves -an Entirely New Language of Our Universe

One of the great unsolved mysteries of modern physics are the to-date elusive gravitational waves -believed by some to be the secret to dark energy. A team of scientists and engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has brought the world one step closer to “hearing” gravitational waves caused by the rapid motion of massive objects predicted by Albert Einstein in the early 20th century. If detected these waves will offer an entirely new way to perceive the universe—one that has more in common with hearing than seeing.

The research, performed in a lab at JPL in Pasadena, Calif., tested a system of lasers that would fly aboard the proposed space mission called Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, or LISA. The mission’s goal is to detect the subtle, whisper-like signals of gravitational waves, which have yet to be directly observed.The new JPL tests hit one significant milestone, demonstrating for the first time that noise, or random fluctuations, in LISA’s laser beams can be hushed enough to hear the sweet sounds of the elusive waves. “In order to detect gravitational waves, we have to make extremely precise measurements,” said Bill Klipstein, a physicist at JPL. “Our lasers are much noisier than what we want to measure, so we have to remove that noise carefully to get a clear signal; it’s a little like listening for a feather to drop in the middle of a heavy rainstorm.”

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