The Gravitational Universe

Gravity is the dominant force in the universe. We propose the first ever mission to survey the entire universe directly with gravitational waves, to tell us about the formation of structure and galaxies, stellar evolution, the early universe, and the structure and nature of spacetime itself. Most importantly, there will be enormous potential for discovering the parts of the universe that are invisible by other means, such as black holes, the Big Bang, and other, as yet unknown objects.

The European Space Agency has recently launched the process for choosing candidates for the next large mission launch slots. The first step in this process is the submission of white papers advocating science themes. The eLISA team will submit a compelling science case, which will be addressed by our eLISA mission concept in 2028.

Quick facts

Learn more about the eLISA Mission and its precursor LISA Pathfinder.

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Support the Gravitational Universe science theme, as addressed by the eLISA mission concept.


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Supporters

As of today, there are 4088 verified supporters.

1247 scientists support us, comprising
79 Authors
81 Contributors
1087 Scientific Supporters

In addition there are

2841 eLISA Friends

Contact

Please contact for further information.

List of supporters 

Prof Gerardus 't Hooft
Utrecht University
NETHERLANDS
Prof Barry Barish
Caltech
UNITED STATES
Prof Claude Cohen-Tannoudji
College de France
FRANCE
Prof Neil Gehrels
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
UNITED STATES
Prof Gabriela Gonzalez
LIGO Scientific Collaboration Spokesperson, LSU
UNITED STATES
Prof Douglas Gough
Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge
UNITED KINGDOM
Prof Stephen Hawking
University of Cambridge, DAMTP
UNITED KINGDOM
Prof Steven Kahn
Stanford University/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
UNITED STATES
Prof Mark Kasevich
Stanford University, Physics Dept.
UNITED STATES
Prof Michael Kramer
Max-Planck-Institut fuer Radioastronomie
GERMANY
Prof Abraham Loeb
Harvard University
UNITED STATES
Prof Piero Madau
University of California, Santa Cruz
UNITED STATES
Prof Luciano Maiani
Università di Roma La Sapienza
ITALY
Prof John Mather
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
UNITED STATES
Prof David Merritt
Rochester Institute of Technology
UNITED STATES
Prof Viatcheslav Mukhanov
LMU München
GERMANY
Prof Giorgio Parisi
Universita di Roma la Sapienza
ITALY
Prof Stuart Shapiro
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
UNITED STATES
Prof George Smoot
Universite Paris Diderot
FRANCE
Prof Saul Teukolsky
Cornell University
UNITED STATES
Prof Kip Thorne
California Institute of Technology
UNITED STATES
Prof Gabriele Veneziano
Collège de France
FRANCE
Prof Jean-Yves Vinet
Virgo Collaboration Spokesperson, OCA Nice
FRANCE
Prof Rainer Weiss
MIT
UNITED STATES
Prof Clifford Will
University of Florida
UNITED STATES
Prof Edward Witten
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
UNITED STATES
Prof Arnold Wolfendale
Durham University
UNITED KINGDOM
Prof Shing-Tung Yau
Harvard University
UNITED STATES

See the full list of Authors Contributors Supporters eLISA Friends

image: gravitational waves generated by the white dwarf pair RX J0806.3+1527 in front of the Milky Way's galactic center, with black hole Sagittarius A*. (credit: NASA, ESA, SSC, CXC, and STScI)

 

eLISA Mission Concept

Gravity is the dominant force in the universe. With eLISA, we propose the first ever mission to survey the entire universe directly with gravitational waves, to tell us about the formation of structure and galaxies, stellar evolution, the early universe, and the structure and nature of spacetime itself. Most importantly, there will be enormous potential for discovering the parts of the universe that are invisible by other means. Today we can see the beauty of the universe with modern telescopes in many wavelengths. Observing the universe with gravitational waves—which are analogous to acoustic waves—will allow us to hear the universe for the first time.

eLISA will measure the relative displacement of free-falling test masses, one million kilometers apart, by means of laser interferometry. This will enable us to determine parameters like mass, spin, orbital elements, and luminosity distance of the sources with unprecedented precision. Large parts of the technologies necessary for such a mission have already been developed, and will be tested in space by LISA Pathfinder in 2015.

Test

There is a huge number of known low frequency gravitational wave sources for eLISA.

  • Coalescing massive black holes out to redshift z~20.
  • Small black holes captured by a massive black hole out to z~1.
  • Relativistic compact binaries like white dwarfs, neutron stars, and stellar mass black holes (~108 sources in the Milky Way alone)

As the first observatory for low frequency gravitational waves, there is enormous potential for the discovery of as yet unknown sources. Since the propagation of gravity is not blocked by matter it could even be possible to observe Cosmic Strings and the Big Bang itself.

The eLISA mission is a milestone project that has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of physics and cosmology. By directly observing gravity—the only field that couples with all known forms of matter and energy—eLISA will test one of the most fundamental laws of nature, open a new window on astronomy, and unravel our Gravitational Universe.

What eLISA can do for you

Illuminate
our understanding of the clustering of pre-galactic haloes and discover the first seed black holes in the universe.

Provide
invaluable information on the nature of central black holes in .under-luminous. dwarf galaxies and unveil the nature of the stellar remnants skimming the hole's horizon, providing clues about their dynamics.

Increase
our knowledge of the ultra compact binaries in our galaxy which are on the verge of transforming into heavier objects. This will shed light into the nature of Type Ia supernovae and short gamma-ray bursts.

Map
the spacetime around black holes in galactic nuclei, testing whether they are the Kerr black holes predicted by general relativity.

Discover
how gravitational information propagates and whether the graviton has a mass.

Explore
energy scales and epochs as close as 10-18 to 10-10 seconds after the Big Bang and answer outstanding questions on the origin of the universe well before the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation.

LISA Pathfinder

LISA Pathfinder is a mission designed to demonstrate the technologies necessary for eLISA. It will be able to test all disturbances that act locally inside an eLISA satellite. All of the most relevant hardware was designed to meet eLISA requirements.

  • Gravity Reference Sensor (vacuum chamber, test masses, and electrode housing)
  • Launch-lock and test-mass-release-into-orbit mechanisms
  • Optical Readout (hydroxide-bonded monolithic optical bench)
  • Nd:Yag laser and local laser interferometer
  • Cold gas micro-thrusters (for drag-free control)

All of the sophisticated and complex systems of LISA Pathfinder have been delivered and successfully tested.

Almost all of the sophisticated and complex systems of LISA Pathfinder have been delivered and successfully tested. All technical problems have been solved and the final flight hardware will be available in fall 2013.

After a successful LISA Pathfinder Mission, there will be a four year phase to build and test a complete eLISA payload. LISA Pathfinder technology can be transferred as-is. Additional technology necessary for eLISA, such as laser frequency noise suppression and satellite-to-satellite ranging, is already being developed and tested on ground. Industrial construction of the three eLISA spacecraft will begin in 2020 with an expected launch date in 2028.

http://support.elisascience.org
images credit: White dwarf pair in front of the galactic center: AEI, NASA, ESA, SSC, CXC, and STScI | eLISA spacecraft: AEI / Milde Marketing / exozet effects | Gravitational waves: AEI / Zuse-Institut Berlin / Werner Benger | Artist's impression of an X-ray nova: European Space Agency | LISA Pathfinder spacecraft: ASTRIUM UK