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Astrophsyics

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.


The European Space Agency LISA observatory


PCOS News

Program News and Announcements

3 January 2022
PCOS and related activities being held next week in lieu of the cancelled AAS Winter Meeting »  Details.
17 December 2021
PCOS Chief Scientist Opening on USAJobs »  Details.
17 December 2021
ROSES-21: Revised Text and Budget for D.9 NuSTAR General Observer Program Cycle 8 »  Details.
17 December 2021
Science Information Policy RFI Released »  Details.
17 December 2021
ROSES-21: D.15 Astrophysics Pioneers Final Text and Due Dates »  Details.
17 December 2021
ROSES-21: D.12 XRISM Guest Scientist program deferred to 2022 »  Details.
15 December 2021
Invitation to the Joint PAG Session at AAS Meeting »  Details.
9 November 2021
Astrophysics Division (APD) Needs Community Inputs to NASA Astrophysics Technology Gap Prioritization Process Following Astro2020 »  Details.

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