New ESA Mission: Manmade Spacecraft to Orbit the Sun and Detect Gravitational Waves

While space agencies have launched satellites, telescopes, rovers, and other crafts to the moon, nearby planets, and even beyond the edges of our solar system, no one has as of yet, put a craft into orbit around the Sun. But that’s exactly what the European Space Agency, or ESA, would like to do.

With the inherent challenges of such a task, like core temperatures above 27 million degrees, plasma jets, and a mass 1.3 times larger than Earth, what the ESA hopes to detect makes the risks worth it: gravitational waves.

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Qualification tests for the LISA Pathfinder flight model: the LISA Pathfinder flight model before magnetic and thermal tests in the space condition simulation chamber at IABG, Germany in August 2011.

The phenomenon of gravitational waves was first predicted to exist by Albert Einstein and are space-time ripples created when two black holes collide or merge together. Scientists first detected such waves in September 2015 by using the Laser Gravitational Wave Observatory, or LIGO. The pair of massive observatories uses a series of lasers and mirrors to detect the minute movement of gravitational waves. However, there can be a number of disturbances on Earth that mimic the slight tremor, like earthquakes or a passing train, and while the observatories were specifically designed to eliminate these types of erroneous readings, their gravitational wave findings have come under debate.

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