When space and time are moving — SFB Gravitational Wave Astronomy will be funded for another four years

Gigantic cosmic events cause oscillations in space and time — a gravitational wave is emitted. The Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) ”Gravitational Wave Astronomy“ aims to measure these gravitational waves directly and to study them both theoretically and experimentally. The German Research Foundation DFG has now decided to fund this SFB, which includes scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, for another four years with eight million Euros.

Fig. 1: Four snapshots of the collision of two initially cold neutron stars in a binary. The computer simulated evolution covers only 0.02 seconds, in which the two stars approach each other quickly due to gravitational-wave emission (top left), collide (top right), merge (bottom left), and form a dense, super heavy neutron star surrounded by an extended, more dilute halo of hot gas (bottom right).
(Simulation: Andreas Bauswein und H.-Thomas Janka/MPA; Visualisation: Markus Rampp/RZG)

”Gravitational waves belong to gravity just as light waves belong to electromagnetism,“ says Prof. Dr. Bernd Brügmann from the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, the spokesperson of the research network. Where traditional astronomy with electromagnetic waves reaches its limits, gravitational wave astronomy could carry on, explains the professor for gravitational theory. ”Gravitational waves contain information about black holes, the core of supernova explosions, and even the Big Bang, the birth of our Universe.“ It is extremely difficult, however, to actually measure these waves.

Albert Einstein predicted gravitational waves in his General Theory of Relativity in 1916, but to date they have been detected only indirectly in objects that lose energy due to the emission of gravitational waves. One of the main problems for a direct measurement is the very low intensity of the signal. Innovations at existing detectors over the coming years, however, should make the detection possible.

For accurate predictions of the gravitational wave signal from different astronomical objects, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics develop models of the (asymmetric) core collapse of massive stars at the end of their lifetimes or the merger of two compact stars. These kinds of events are among the most promising sources of gravitational waves. To accurately predict the characteristics of such a signal, many different physical processes have to be taken into account, such as relativistic flows, radiation transport and microphysics. The latest available computational tools for the individual processes have to be combined or new codes have to be developed.

The German Research Foundation DFG has now approved about eight million Euros additional funding for the SFB/TR7 Gravitational Wave Astronomy. ”With this, the research network which started in 2003 can now continue its successful work up to 2014 and, among other things, finance 30 science staff,“ says Prof. Brügmann. Some 80 physicists, astronomers and mathematicians participate in the SFB/TR7 in 17 projects. In the coming four years, these researchers from the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, the Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, the Leibniz University Hannover and the Max Planck Institutes for Gravitational Physics in Hanover und Potsdam and for Astrophysics in Garching will continue to hunt for gravitational waves.

More information about the the SFB/TR7 Gravitational Wave Astronomy

Prof. Dr. Bernd Brügmann
Theoretisch-Physikalisches Institut der Universität Jena
Fröbelstieg 1, 07743 Jena
Tel.: 03641 / 947111 or 947100
E-Mail: Bernd.Bruegmannuni-jena.de

Local Contact:
PD Dr. Ewald Müller
Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik
Tel: +49 89 30000-2209
E-mail: emuellermpa-garching.mpg.de

Dr. Hannelore Hämmerle
Press Officer
Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik
und Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik
Tel: +49 89 30000-3980
E-Mail: hhaemmerlempa-garching.mpg.de