Between 2015 and 2017 the field of gravitational waves saw an incredible progress and important discoveries, following the very first detection on 14 September 2015 by the LIGO detectors. In August 2017 the Advanced VIRGO European detector entered also in operation and during the same month several gravitational wave events were discovered among which the spectacular coalescence of two neutron stars. The event was observed in all electromagnetic bands, opening thus the era of multi-band astronomy.
Besides these discoveries based on Earth observations, ESA launched on 3 December 2015 the LISA PAthfinder satellite, with the aim to demonstrate the readiness and performance of technologies needed to build the first gravitational wave observatory in space. The Pathfinder was successful beyond expectations, achieving femtometer accuracy in measuring the distance between two free falling masses orbiting around the Sun.
Following these developments, on 20 June 2017 ESA selected LISA - Laser Interferometer Space Antenna - as the candidate for the Large-class mission L3. LISA is expected to fly in 2032-2034, and after an intense phase of planning and preparation, the mission shall initiate the Phase A development in April 2018.
Switzerland gave an important contribution to the Pathfinder and will play an important role also in LISA. The groups of Prof. Domenico Giardini (ETHZ) and Prof. Philippe Jetzer (UZH), delivered the front-end electronics of the Gravitational Wave Sensor (the core of the LISA experiment) together with the Swiss industry RUAG (now TAS-CH) and participated to the data analysis and scientific exploitation of the LISA Pathfinder data. Both groups are now fully engaged in LISA, both for the technical aspects and the scientific definition and later on the data analysis and science. Dr. Luigi Ferraioli (ETHZ) leads the LISA simulation Working Group and Philippe Jetzer is also a member of the LIGO collaboration. The Swiss industry (RUAG) also delivered the caging systems for the LPF and negotiations are on-going to continue the same developments in LISA. The main financial support for these activities comes from the PRODEX program or from ESA contracts.
LISA will open a new window in the exploration of the Universe as well as for testing general relativity and for studying many aspects of fundamental physics. In many countries, plans are underway to strengthen the research capacity. This website is aimed at promoting and coordinating all LISA related activities at Swiss national level.