PCOS Science Goals
Test the validity of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity and investigate the nature of spacetime
Einstein's General Theory of Relativity is one of the most cherished fundamental theories of physics. But this description of gravity is widely expected to be incomplete because of its lack of a quantum foundation. The electromagnetic, weak, and strong forces, by contrast, are well defined by quantum mechanics. Most tests of General Relativity have been done in low gravitational fields, e.g., within the Solar System. Among the most stringent tests to date are the binary pulsar observations where the effects of gravitational radiation are important. However, the best tests would be in the most extreme conditions, near the event horizons of black holes, and where black holes are interacting at close range, particularly where velocities are an appreciable fraction of the speed of light. General Relativity makes specific predictions about how the light emitted from material in the inner-most regions around a black hole is distorted and gravitationally redshifted. Detailed observations of that light will provide stringent tests of strong gravity. General relativity also predicts that the inspiral of two massive objects will perturb spacetime and generate gravitational waves. The most extreme conditions and hence the strongest gravitational wave signals exist during the merger of massive black holes. Studying gravity in these strong field limits will provide essential tests of General Relativity and the nature of spacetime.
Program News and Announcements
31 May 2019
Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA SMD Associate Administrator, invites the science community to a live-streamed national colloquium on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 (4:00–6:00 pm EDT) on "Writing Successful Mission Proposals: Observations from NASA." To attend in person at the University of Colorado campus, please RSVP here
. The live stream will be available here
. For further details, please see the colloquium invitation. » Details
17 May 2019
Following up on a Nov 2018 mission PI diversity workshop, the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is planning a number of exciting opportunities open to community participation, including a new website for potential PIs, pre-review mission panels to ensure diversity and reduce conflicts of interest, research proposal writing workshops at conferences and for PIs developing their first proposal, career development positions, and a presentation by SMD Associate Administrator Thomas H. Zurbuchen on proposal statistical analysis. Please see the Associate Administrator's full update here
16 May 2019
June 1 2019 is the deadline for filling and submitting the technology gap submission form. We encourage members of the community to identify such gaps between today's state-of-the-art and what will be needed for missions identified by the 2010 Decadal Survey, the 2018 Astrophysics Implementation Plan, and/or the 30-year Astrophysics Road Map. Please see the Astrophysics Division Technologists letter
for more details, including how to submit a gap.
25 March 2019
NASA HQ Astrophysics Division has created a task force to assess NASA's role in strategic optimization of Gravitational Wave Electromagnetic Counterpart (GW-EM) astrophysics. See the Terms of Reference
for more details.
1 February 2019
Dr Terri Brandt confirmed as PCOS Chief Scientist.