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A satellite triangle for gravity waves.

A satellite triangle for gravity waves

Gravity waves are the one major prediction of Einstein's generalrelativity theory that has not been directly detected or demonstrated by experimental equipment. These waves-- gravity's analog to radio--are cyclic disturbances of gravitational forces generated by cosmic or astrophysical processes. Like radio waves, they propagate themselves through space.

The rather ambitious experimental effort now under way tofind gravity waves may someday include an apparatus that shoots laser beams between spacecraft orbiting at distances of a million kilometers from each other. Kip Thorne of Caltech in Pasadena told the meeting that such an arrangement is under study at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA) in Boulder, Colo.

The passage of gravity waves should produce minute vibrationsor jiggles in heavy objects. One form of experimental detector is designed to reflect beams of laser light between two or more such objects and monitor their motions by changes in the phase relations of the light resulting from changes in the distances between them.

Experiments on earth use, or propose to use, distances betweenthe weights from a few meters to kilometers. However, to detect what Thorne calls low-frequency gravity waves, those with oscillation periods between 10 seconds and 10 hours, one has to go into space. The suggestion under study at JILA would put up three satellites, two orbiting the earth and one the sun, spaced to form the vertices of a triangle with million-kilometer sides. This might be done by the year 2000, Thorne says.
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Title Annotation:proposal to use three artificial satellites for experiments on gravity waves in space
Author:Thomsen, Dietrick E.
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 10, 1987
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