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Session 64 - Telescopes for the Next Millennium.
Oral session, Thursday, January 08

[64.09] OMEGA: A Space Gravitational Wave MIDEX Mission

B. Hiscock (Montana State U.), R. W. Hellings (JPL)

OMEGA is a future gravitational wave astronomy project to be proposed as a MIDEX mission. It consists of six miniprobes in high circular Earth orbit that track each other with lasers. Each miniprobe also has a sensitive drag-free system that eliminates external non-gravitational perturbations on the probe. The spacecraft are placed two-by-two at the vertices of an equilateral triangle with million-kilometer sides. By combining signals from the six miniprobes, a Michelson interferometer can be created to measure the tiny distance perturbations produced by gravitational waves in the band from 10 secs to 10^4 secs. A number of interesting sources may be found in this wavelength band. Interacting white dwarf binaries such as AM CVn will definitely be detectable, so the actual detection of gravitational waves is assured. In fact, a complete survey of close compact binaries in the galaxy (white dwarf, neutron star, and black hole) can be completed, thereby providing a population whose statistics will test models of close binary evolution. Compact stars in orbit around massive black holes will be seen either as captured stars that spiral into the black hole or as weakly bound stars that make a few eccentric orbits before being perturbed away. These objects could be seen out to nearly a redshift of z=1. Finally, the coalescence of massive black hole binaries formed by the collisions of central-black-hole-containing galaxies will be seen strongly above instrumental noise out to redshifts of z=4.

Program listing for Thursday