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Detecting Gravitational Waves


In This Section


Indirect Evidence

Direct Evidence

Resonant Mass Detectors

Laser Interferometers

Space-Based Detectors

Space-Based Detectors

Binary stars are the strongest and most predictable sources of gravitational waves. However, these waves can be hard to detect. Waves from binary stars are mostly low frequency waves; this makes their signals hard to separate from the earth’s gravitational field and vibrations in the earth. To avoid this problem, scientists are designing new experiments to detect gravitational waves in space.

The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, LISA, is a detector that will fly in space. The equipment for LISA will go on three spacecraft. The spacecraft will orbit the sun as an equilateral triangle with sides of 5 million km. Each spacecraft will communicate with the other two, enabling LISA to detect both the strength and direction of gravitational waves. LISA is a joint European Space Agency and NASA project and should launch around 2014.

LISA Concept
LISA (European Space Agency and NASA)
Artist's concept of the LISA mission.
Image courtesy of NASA.


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