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LISA Data Analysis

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LISA Data Analysis

LISA is a constellation of three spacecraft that uses laser interferometry to precisely measure distance changes between widely separated freely falling test masses housed in each spacecraft. The spacecrafts are at the corners of an equilateral triangle 5x10^6 km on a side in heliocentric orbit. LISA should observe low frequency gravitational radiation from likely sources out to cosmological distances, and would be an important complement to the ground-based experiments already being operated. LISA is a NASA/ESA mission and is expected to launch at the beginning of the next decade.

LISA will be able to detect gravitational waves from several types of sources. Our knowledge of these sources and the gravitational waves they are expected to emit will guide the analysis of the raw mesurement data which LISA. Similarly, our mock data challenge problems are organized by gravitational wave source types, including the following source classes:

  • Galactic binaries made up of neutron stars, white dwarfs, ordinary stars, or black holes in our Galaxy. LISA will be sensitive to so many of these systems that they will not all be distinguishable in the data, providing a great deal of information about these systems, and a special data analysis challenge.

  • Massive black hole (MBH) mergers occuring where distant galaxies have interacted. These massive black holes are thought to exist in the centers of most galaxies. LISA will be sufficiently sensitive to these systems that they will be detectable to very large distance (up to redshifts z>10). Some may be detected with signal-to-noise ratio SNR>10000.

  • Extreme mass ratio inspirals (EMRIs) in which a star-sized compact object falls into a massive black hole at the center of a distant galaxy. Careful study of these systems through LISA observations will allow us to measure the properties of spacetime around the MBH, providing a strong test of Einstein's theory of gravity.


AstroGravS is a service of the Exploration of the Universe Division (EUD) at NASA's GSFC.

  • AstroGravS web related questions and comments to: Karen Smale
  • Responsible NASA Official: Joan Centrella

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