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Max Planck researchers win part of Descartes Research Prize 2005

Network (EPN, also known as PULSE). It began with the development of a common format to bring together data from very different measuring devices. One early PULSE success was when three European telescopes simultaneously observed radio pulses from pulsars at three different wavelengths. In co-operation with the Australian Telescope National Facility, members of the network helped develop new instruments and computer programs, co-ordinate observation programmes, and create a publicly accessible databank (http://www.mpifr-bonn.mpg.de/div/pulsar/data/) for all the observational information that was returned.

850 new pulsars were discovered thanks to this co-operation. This greatly exceeds the total number found over the last 30 years. Furthermore, the research team's greatest success was the discovery of the first double pulsar. That such a system exists at all is unusual, because its two components must have made it through a double supernova explosion.

Using pulsars as clocks, it is possible to measure how the presence of heavy bodies curves space-time. By observing pulsars, the researchers have shown repeatedly that close double neutron star systems send out strong gravitational waves.

The newly discovered double pulsar system has also helped beautifully to confirm Einstein's General Relativity Theory. In the system, all orbital parameters are directly astronomically confirmable, and the masses of both pulsars can be determined. But because of the effects predicted by relativity theory, five more independent mass calculations were possible. All gave the same result with great precision. This provided more evidence in favour of Einstein's theory about the connection between space, time, and material.

Project co-ordination: Prof. Andrew Lyne, University of Manchester (Great Britain), together with Prof. Nicolo D'amico, INAF Osservatorio Astronomico di Cagliari (Italy), Dr. Ax
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Contact: Prof. Werner Hofmann
werner.hofmann@mpi-hd.mpg.de
49-6221-516-330
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
8-Dec-2005


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