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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

See our new Events Calendar

Program News and Announcements

1 July 2022
Astrophysics Probe Announcement of Opportunity Schedule Update »  Details.
1 July 2022
NICER GO – Cycle 5 Revised Text and Phase-1 Due Date Delay »  Details.
1 July 2022
Swift Cycle 19 Update on Joint Observations with NICER »  Details.
1 July 2022
Inaugural NASA Sounding Rocket Symposium »  Details.
1 July 2022
1st Precursor Science Workshop Summary Report and Worksheets Posted »  Details.
26 May 2022
Astrophysics Biennial Technology Report and Tech Gaps Announcements »  Details.
5 April 2022
The NASA Physics of the Cosmos (PCOS) Program Office is organizing a Time Domain and Multi-Messenger Astrophysics (TDAMM) Initiative Workshop to be held in the Annapolis area on August 22nd–24th 2022 »  Details.

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