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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.



PCOS News

Program News and Announcements

1 February 2019
Dr Terri Brandt confirmed as PCOS Chief Scientist.
20 December 2018
LISA Preparatory Science 2018 (LPS) proposals have been selected! »  Full details
17 December 2018
NASA HQ has publicly posted an updated Astrophysics Implementation Plan (AIP), detailing progress made by NASA's Astrophysics Division in implementing the 2010 Decadal recommendations since the previous update in 2016. Please see »  full details
29 November 2018
The National Academies has released updated information about the 2020 Decadal Survey call for Community Science White Papers. They are now due 7 January–19 February 2019. See here for further instructions. Further, it is our pleasure to announce that the President of the National Academy of Sciences Marcia McNutt has appointed Dr. Fiona Harrison and Dr. Robert Kennicutt, Jr. to serve as co-chairs of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey committee.

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  • NASA Official: Phil Newman
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