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Optical Engineering

Telescopes for space-based gravitational wave missions
Author(s): Jeffrey C. Livas; Petar Arsenovic; John A. Crow; Peter C. Hill; Joseph M. Howard; Lenward T. Seals; Shahram Shiri
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Paper Abstract

Space-based observation of gravitational waves promises to enable the study of a rich variety of high energy astrophysical sources in the 0.0001 to 1 Hz band using signals complementary to traditional electromagnetic waves. Gravitational waves represent the first new tool for studying the sky since gamma ray telescopes debuted in the 1970s, and we expect compelling science to be the result. The fundamental measurement is to monitor the path length difference between pairs of freely falling test masses with laser interferometry to a precision of picometers over gigameter baselines. The test masses are arranged in an equilateral triangle to allow simultaneous measurement of both gravitational wave polarizations. The heliocentric orbital space environment enables the test masses to be shielded from large ground motions at low frequencies, and allows the construction of long measurement baselines that are well matched to the signal wavelengths. Optical telescopes play an important role in the measurement because they deliver laser light efficiently from one spacecraft to another. The telescopes are directly in the measurement path, so there are additional performance requirements to support precision metrology beyond the usual requirements for good image formation.

Paper Details

Date Published: 1 September 2013
PDF: 9 pages
Opt. Eng. 52(9) 091811 doi: 10.1117/1.OE.52.9.091811
Published in: Optical Engineering Volume 52, Issue 9
Show Author Affiliations
Jeffrey C. Livas, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
Petar Arsenovic, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
John A. Crow, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
Peter C. Hill, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
Joseph M. Howard, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
Lenward T. Seals, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)
Shahram Shiri, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States)

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