Gravitational wave observatories are emerging as the future protagonists of many scientific discoveries. Those installed on the surface of the Earth have already achieved great things, but this environment does not allow them to fully exploit their possibilities. Placing them in space also has drawbacks. And on the surface of the Moon? A line of research is exploring this option.
Astrophysicist Karan Jani, from Vanderbilt University in the United States, has been mulling over the idea of a lunar gravitational wave observatory for some time. Now he has been joined by Avi Loeb, from Harvard University in the United States, who is also known for the great popularity of his books on black holes, the first stars, the search for extraterrestrial life and the future of the universe.
The project for this infrastructure for capturing gravitational waves from lunar soil, called GLOC (Gravitational-wave Lunar Observatory for Cosmology), is based on taking advantage of the lunar environment and its geocentric orbit around the Earth to track with greater probabilities of Successful mergers of black holes, neutron stars, and dark matter candidates in nearly 70% of the entire observable volume of the universe.
Dark matter is an exotic form of matter that, paradoxically, abounds more in the universe than the normal matter that we know and from which stars, planets and other stars are made. Dark matter is not detectable by light or any other form of electromagnetic radiation, revealing its presence only through the gravitational attraction it exerts on visible matter. Trying to capture it through its influence on gravitational waves is a promising way to discover what kind of objects or particles are made of it.
Jani argues that by taking advantage of the natural conditions on the Moon, it is feasible that one of the most challenging spectra of gravitational waves can be better measured from the lunar surface, which until now seems impossible from Earth or space.
“The Moon offers an ideal setting for the ultimate gravitational wave observatory, as it lacks an atmosphere and perceptible seismic noise, which we must mitigate at great cost for laser interferometers on Earth,” explains Loeb. “A lunar observatory would provide an unprecedented sensitivity to discover sources that we do not foresee and that could reveal new physics to us. GLOC could be the crown jewel of science on the surface of the Moon.”
Conceptual design of the GLOC (Gravitational-wave Lunar Observatory for Cosmology) on the surface of the Moon. (Image: Karan Jani)
This work progresses as NASA reactivates its Artemis program, which aims to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon in 2024. Ongoing commercial work by various aerospace companies, including SpaceX and Blue Origin, has also contributed to promote the planning of an ambitious scientific infrastructure on the surface of the Moon.
Karan Jani and Avi Loeb have completed a preliminary study on the project, entitled “Gravitational-wave Lunar Observatory for Cosmology” and which has been published in the academic journal Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics. (Source: NCYT from Amazings)