Einstein's most famous theory to be tested in space
A just-launched mission could actually prove the theory of relativity.
Launching Albert Einstein into space might prove difficult, but sending a rocket ship to test one of his theories is a little easier. Relatively speaking, of course.
After several years of hard work, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched its LISA Pathfinder into outer space on Thursday. It's mission? To prove Einstein's theory of relativity.
The ship has the extraordinary technology needed to observe gravitational waves from space. The mission will put objects in the purest free-fall ever produced in space and monitor their relative positions with astonishing precision.
"Gravitational waves are the next frontier for astronomers. We have been looking at the universe in visible light for millennia and across the whole electromagnetic spectrum in just the past century," says Alvaro Giménez Cañete, ESA's director of science and robotic exploration. "But by testing the predictions made by Einstein 100 years ago with LISA Pathfinder, we are paving the road towards a fundamentally new window on the universe."
This may be the theory of relativity's maiden voyage to space, but it's been residing on Earth for 100 years. To be more specific, the actual original printed copy is located in Israel.
"It is a great treasure," Hanoch Gutfreund, the director of the Albert Einstein Archives at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, told From The Grapevine. Einstein was a founder of Hebrew University, a member of its Board of Governors and the chairman of its Academic Committee. He bequeathed to the university 80,000 documents, which span the spectrum of both his personal and professional life. Which makes Gutfreund, himself a theoretical physicist, perhaps the world's leading expert on Einstein's legacy.
He calls the original theory of relativity the most cherished manuscript they have in the Jerusalem archive. "I refer to it as the magna carta of physics," he says.
LISA Pathfinder is expected to reach its operational orbit about 10 weeks after launch, in mid-February. After final checks, it will begin its six-month scientific mission at the beginning of March.
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