Low-frequency gravitational-wave science with LISA
(Submitted on 07 Jan 2012)
This document introduces the exciting and fundamentally new science and astronomy that the European New Gravitational Wave Observatory (NGO) mission (derived from the previous LISA proposal) will deliver. The mission (which we will refer to by its informal name “LISA”) will survey for the first time the low-frequency gravitational wave band (about 0.1 mHz to 1 Hz), with sucient sensitivity to detect interesting individual astrophysical sources out to z = 15. The measurements described here will address the basic scientific goals that have been captured in ESA’s “New Gravitational Wave Observatory Science Requirements Document”; they are presented here so that the wider scientific community can have access to them. The LISA mission will discover and study a variety of cosmic events and systems with high sensitivity: coalescences of massive black holes binaries, brought together by galaxy mergers; mergers of earlier, less-massive black holes during the epoch of hierarchical galaxy and black-hole growth; stellar-mass black holes and compact stars in orbits just skimming the horizons of massive black holes in galactic nuclei of the present era; extremely compact white dwarf binaries in our Galaxy, a rich source of information about binary evolution and about future Type Ia supernovae; and possibly most interesting of all, the uncertain and unpredicted sources, for example relics of inflation and of the symmetry-breaking epoch directly after the Big Bang. LISA’s measurements will allow detailed studies of these signals with high signal-to-noise ratio, addressing most of the key scientific questions raised by ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme in the areas of astrophysics and cosmology. They will also provide stringent tests of general relativity in the strong-field dynamical regime, which cannot be probed in any other way. This document not only describes the science but also gives an overview on the mission design and orbits. LISA’s heritage in the LISA design will be clear to those familiar with the previous proposal, as will its incorporation of key elements of hardware from the LISA Pathfinder mission, scheduled for launch by ESA in 2014. But LISA is fundamentally a new mission, one that will pioneer the completely new science of low-frequency gravitational wave astronomy.
arXiv:1201.3621v1 [astro-ph.CO] 17 Jan 2012