Interdisciplinary physics at the AEDGE

29 August 2019
Frequency niche

Following the discovery of gravitational waves by the LIGO and Virgo collaborations, there is great interest in observing other parts of the gravitational-wave spectrum and seeing what they can tell us about astrophysics, particle physics and cosmology. The European Space Agency (ESA) has approved the LISA space experiment that is designed to observe gravitational waves in a lower frequency band than LIGO and Virgo, while the KAGRA experiment in Japan, the INDIGO experiment in India and the proposed Einstein Telescope (ET) will reinforce LIGO and Virgo. However, there is a gap in observational capability in the intermediate-frequency band where there may be signals from the mergers of massive black holes weighing between 100 and 100,000 solar masses, and from a first-order phase transition or cosmic strings in the early universe.

This was the motivation for a workshop held at CERN on 22 and 23 July that brought experts from the cold-atom community together with particle physicists and representatives of the gravitational-wave community. Experiments using cold atoms as clocks and in interferometers offer interesting prospects for detecting some candidates for ultralight dark matter as well as gravitational waves in the mid-frequency gap. In particular, a possible space experiment called AEDGE could complement the observations by LIGO, Virgo, LISA and other approved experiments.

The workshop shared information about long-baseline terrestrial cold-atom experiments that are already funded and under construction, such as MAGIS in the US, MIGA in France and ZAIGA in China, as well as ideas for future terrestrial experiments such as MAGIA-advanced in Italy, AION in the UK and ELGAR in France. Delegates also heard about space – CACES (China) and CAL (NASA) – and sounding-rocket experiments – MAIUS (Germany) – using cold atoms in space and microgravity.

A suggestion for an atom interferometer using a pair of satellites is being put forward by the AEDGE team

ESA has recently issued a call for white papers for its Voyage 2050 long-term science programme, and a suggestion for an atom interferometer using a pair of satellites is being put forward by the AEDGE team (in parallel with a related suggestion called STE-QUEST) to build upon the experience with prior experiments. AEDGE was the focus of the CERN workshop, and would have unique capabilities to probe the assembly of the supermassive black holes known to power active galactic nuclei, physics beyond the Standard Model in the early universe and ultralight dark matter. AEDGE would be a uniquely interdisciplinary space mission, harnessing cold-atom technologies to address key issues in fundamental physics, astrophysics and cosmology.

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