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Mission to probe origin of the Universe announced

PTI | Last Updated: Friday, November 29, 2013 - 22:26

London: A unique space mission to open up hidden chapters in the history of the Universe was announced Friday that will detect ripples in space time caused by some of the most violent events.

The Science Programme Committee of the European Space Agency (ESA) said today that one of their next two Large (L-class) missions will be to probe the Gravitational Universe by establishing a gravitational wave observatory in space.

Scottish scientists will be at the heart of the unique space mission that will aim at detecting gravitational waves and open up hidden chapters in the history of the Universe by listening to the waves made by the earliest black holes and probably by the Big Bang itself.

The proposed mission, known as the evolved Laser Interferometry Space Antenna (eLISA), is planned for launch in 2034. It will build upon technologies already developed by scientists at the University of Glasgow`s Institute for Gravitational Research (IGR) for the ESA`s LISA Pathfinder (LPF) probe.

LISA Pathfinder, due for launch in 2015, will demonstrate key eLISA technologies in space, including the ultra-sensitive optical measurement system built at the University of Glasgow.

Harry Ward, who leads the University of Glasgow LPF and eLISA work, said: "For the UK, the decision is great news. The very significant UK Space Agency investment in developing the LISA Pathfinder payload will now bear fruit and with eLISA, we can look forward to a rich scientific output from what promises to be one of the most important astronomical observatories of our time.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be at the heart of a mission that will yield completely new insights into the nature and origin of our Universe.

Alongside investigating the origins of the Universe, observation of gravitational waves will provide powerful insight into the fundamentals of gravity and into Einstein`s theory that predicted the waves in 1916.

By observing how waves from early black holes are stretched out as they move toward us through the expanding Universe, the observatory will even shed light on the mystery of dark energy.

Between 2014 and 2020, eLISA technology will be optimised, followed by the final mission selection and commitment of international partners.

In 2024, the industrial implementation will begin with the payload supplied by a European consortium which also provides the flight hardware for LISA Pathfinder.

First Published: Friday, November 29, 2013 - 22:26
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