Radical NASA study says this spacecraft formation could reveal new physics: ScienceAlert

It is an exciting time for the fields of astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology. Thanks to cutting-edge new observatories, instruments and techniques, scientists are one step closer to experimental verification of largely untested theories.

These theories address some of the most pressing questions scientists have about the universe and the physical laws that govern it, such as the nature of gravity, dark matter, and dark energy. For decades, scientists have assumed that either additional physics is at work, or that our prevailing cosmological model needs to be revised.

While investigation into the existence and nature of dark matter and dark energy is still ongoing, there are also attempts to solve these mysteries with the potential for new physics.

in Recent paperA team of NASA researchers has proposed how spacecraft could search for evidence of additional physics within our solar system. They argue that this research will be supported by flying the spacecraft in a tetrahedral formation and using interferometers. Such a mission could help solve a cosmic mystery that has eluded scientists for more than half a century.

A proposal is an action Slava G. Turyshevassistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

He joined him Xing Wei Qiuan experimental physicist at NASA JPL, and Nan Yu, assistant professor at the University of South Carolina and a senior research scientist at NASA JPL. Their paper recently appeared online and has been accepted for publication in Physical review d.

Turyshev's experience includes being a Gravity and Interior Recovery Laboratory (GRAIL) member of the mission's science team. In previous work, Turyshev and his colleagues investigated how to send a mission to the Sun Solar gravitational lensing (SGL) could revolutionize astronomy.

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The concept paper was awarded an A Third stage scholarship in 2020 through NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. In a previous study, he and SETI project astronomer Claudio Macon also looked at how advanced civilizations might use it SGLs for power transmission From one solar system to another.

To summarize, gravitational lensing is a phenomenon in which gravitational fields change the curvature of spacetime in their vicinity. This effect was originally predicted and used by Einstein in 1916 Arthur Eddington in 1919 To confirm his words General relativity (GR).

This drawing shows light trails from a distant galaxy being gravitationally influenced by a mass in the foreground. (NASA/ESA)

However, between the 1960s and 1990s, observations of the rotation curves of galaxies and the expansion of the universe gave rise to new theories regarding the nature of gravity on larger cosmic scales. On the one hand, scientists hypothesized the existence of dark matter and dark energy to reconcile their observations with GR.

On the other hand, scientists have developed alternative theories of gravity (such as Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND), Modified Gravity (MOG), etc.). Meanwhile, others have suggested that there may be additional physics in the universe that we are not yet aware of. As Turyshev told Universe Today via email:

“We are keen to explore the questions surrounding the mysteries of dark energy and dark matter. Although they were discovered in the last century, their fundamental causes remain elusive. If these 'anomalies' stem from new physics – they are phenomena that have not yet been observed on Earth.” “Laboratories or particle accelerators – this new power could be demonstrated on a solar system scale.”

In their latest study, Turyshev and his colleagues investigated how a series of spacecraft flying in a tetrahedral formation probes the Sun's gravitational field.

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These investigations will look for deviations from the predictions of general relativity on the scale of the solar system, something that has not been possible until now, Turyshev said.

“These deviations are supposed to appear as non-zero components of the gravity gradient tensor (GGT), which is akin to the solution of the Poisson equation.

Due to their tiny nature, detecting these anomalies requires precision that far exceeds current capabilities – by at least five orders of magnitude. At such a high level of resolution, many known effects will introduce significant noise.

The strategy involves performing differential measurements to nullify the influence of known forces, thus revealing subtle, but non-zero, contributions to the GGT.

Turyshev said the mission will use local measurement techniques that rely on a series of interferometers. This includes interventional laser ranging, a technique he demonstrated Restore gravity and continue the climate experiment GRACE-FO mission, a pair of spacecraft that relies on laser ranging to track Earth's oceans, glaciers, rivers and surface waters.

The same technique will also be used to investigate gravitational waves by the proposed spacecraft Laser interferometry antenna (Lisa).

The spacecraft will also be equipped with atomic interferometers, which are used Wave The nature of atoms to measure the difference in phase between waves of atomic matter along different paths. This technology will allow the spacecraft to detect the presence of non-gravitational noise (thrust activity, solar radiation pressure, thermal recoil forces, etc.) and nullify it to the necessary degree.

Meanwhile, flying in a tetrahedral formation will improve spacecraft's ability to compare measurements.

“Laser ranging will provide us with very accurate data on the relative distances and velocities between spacecraft,” Turyshev said.

“Furthermore, its exceptional precision will allow us to measure the rotation of a tetrahedral configuration relative to an inertial frame of reference (via Sagnac's observations), a task that cannot be achieved by any other means. Thus, this will create a tetrahedral configuration that makes use of a set of indicators Local measurements.”

Ultimately, this mission will test genetic resources on the smallest scales, something that has been sorely lacking until now. While scientists continue to explore the effect of gravitational fields on spacetime, they have largely been limited to using galaxies and galaxy clusters as lenses.

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Other examples include observations of compact objects (such as white dwarf stars) and supermassive black holes (SMBH) such as Sagittarius A* – which is located at the center of the Milky Way.

“We aim to enhance the accuracy of GR testing and alternative gravity theories by more than five orders of magnitude.

In addition to this primary goal, our thesis has additional scientific goals, which we will detail in our subsequent paper. These include testing GR and other theories of gravity, detecting gravitational waves in the microhertz range — a spectrum inaccessible by existing or envisioned instruments — and exploring aspects of the solar system, such as a hypothetical Planet 9, among other endeavors.

This article was originally published by The universe today. Read the Original article.

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