3. Fundamental Physics in Radio Astronomy Group

PhD projects

of the Fundamental Physics in Radio Astronomy Group

Director: Prof. M. Kramer                                                                                           

Group website

Code: MK01

Pulsars as tools for fundamental physics

The Fundamental Physics in Radio Astronomy group of the MPIfR led by Prof. Michael Kramer concentrates on various aspects of fundamental physics, namely the Galactic population of neutron stars, their use for precision tests of general relativity and alternative theories of gravity, the detection of low-frequency gravitational waves and the structure and properties of super-dense matter. We are seeking a student for one of the following research areas:

a) Searching for pulsars and transient radio sources 

The discovery of new pulsars frequently leads to new scientific results depending on the pulsar's properties. With recent advancements in receivers and computing we are able to probe deeper into the Galaxy than ever before. Radio astronomy also offers a unique chance to explore the dynamic sky as many energetic process are expected to be visible in this part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

b) Pulsars as probes of gravity 

Pulsars are very compact objects, exhibiting the strongest gravitational fields next to black holes. Acting as cosmic lighthouses and precise cosmic clocks, pulsars can be used to probe gravitational physics under strong-field conditions. High precision timing of pulsars provided the first, evidence for the existence of gravitational waves as predicted by Einstein's theory of gravity (Nobel Prize 1993), and leads to some of the best constraints on alternative gravity theories. Our research in that field of experimental gravity is driven by improvements in instrumentation, new pulsar discoveries, and ongoing theoretical work.

c) Pulsar as detectors for low frequency gravitational waves 

The direct detection of gravitational waves from merging black holes with LIGO has opened up a completely new window to the Universe: the gravitational wave sky. Using a Pulsar Timing Array a number of high-precision millisecond pulsars are timed to detect low frequency gravitational waves,  and complement the observations of ground-based gravitational wave detectors like LIGO and VIRGO. To make such a detection a European collaboration, the European Pulsar Timing Array, uses the largest radio telescopes in Europe, including the 100-m radio telescope in Effelsberg.

d) Pulsars as probes of super-dense matter and stellar evolution 

Neutron stars represent the most extreme state of matter in the observable Universe. We can study the properties of this super-dense matter when we observe neutron stars in the form of radio pulsars, e.g. mass measurements in binary pulsars offer some of the best constraints for the "equation-of-state". These mass measurements also offer clues for understanding the birth mass distribution of neutron stars and for the evolution of different types of binary pulsars. 

The applicant's research proposal should be related to the above research themes.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Michael Kramer (mkramer@mpifr.de), Dr. David Champion (champion@mpifr-bonn.mpg.de), Dr. Paulo Freire (pfreire@mpifr-bonn.mpg.de), Dr. Norbert Wex (wex@mpifr-bonn.mpg.de),

Site: Bonn, Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Fundamental Physics in Radio Astronomy Group

Code: MK02

Advanced interferometry techniques

The new radio interferometers that are becoming online now or in the near future are providing new opportunities that go beyond the obvious "faster (survey speed), higher (resolution), further (in sensitivity and distance)". We offer a variety of possible projects in this field, to explore the options, e.g.

a) Further development of analysis techniques for high-resolution observations with LOFAR using the international baselines.

b) Utilising interstellar scattering disks as huge interferometers with incredibly high resolution but the need of sophisticated analysis techniques, e.g. to resolve emission regions on pulsars.

c) Exploring new routes for intensity interferometry at optical and potentially shorter wavelengths to reach the highest resolutions for limited types of sources.

d) Using German LOFAR stations to detect and localise astrophysical transients.

Contact: Dr. Olaf Wucknitz (wucknitz@mpifr-bonn.mpg.de), Prof. Dr. Michael Kramer (mkramer@mpifr.de)

Site: Bonn, Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Fundamental Physics in Radio Astronomy Group

Code: MK03

Pulsar and FRB searches with Meerkat

The MeerKAT radio telescope is poised to become one of the most powerful radio telescopes ever built. This state-of-the-art instrument will open up the radio sky in new and exciting ways. In particular, MeerKAT’s large collecting area and wide field-of-view will make it a phenomenal instrument for high-time-resolution radio astronomy. High time resolution is vital for searching for and discovering pulsars, the rapidly spinning neutron stars often dubbed “cosmic lighthouses”. Pulsars provide us with a unique natural tool with which we may probe the fundamental physics that underpins the behaviour of our Universe. As such the discovery of pulsars, particularly of the most exotic types such as double neutron star binaried and magnetars, is of the utmost importance. High time resolution is also vital for discovering other extremely short duration transient phenomena such as Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs). Thought to originate in cataclysmic explosions at cosmological distances, these phenomena are little understood, with only a small number of events having thus far been observed. The same properties that make MeerKAT a strong instrument for pulsar searches will also make it an exceptional instrument for FRB discovery. It is only by discovering more of these enigmatic sources, that we can ever hope to unravel their mystery.

The successful applicant will work on the the first pulsar and fast transient searches conducted with the MeerKAT radio telescope. Here they will make use of world class supercomputing facilities  to develop and run algorithms to search for pulsars and FRBs. Finally the applicant would be expected to take take the lead on following up on new discoveries, performing analysis and ultimately making novel contributions to the field.

The project will be conducted within the Fundamental Physics in Radio Astronomy group of the MPIfR lead by Prof. Michael Kramer. His team's research concentrates on various aspects of fundamental physics, namely the Galactic population of neutron stars, their use for precision tests of general relativity and alternative theories of gravity, the detection of low-frequency gravitational waves and the structure and properties of super-dense matter.


Contact: Dr. Ramesh Karuppusamy (ramesh@mpifr-bonn.mpg.de), Ewan Barr, Michael Kramer (mkramer@mpifr.de)

Site: Bonn, Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Fundamental Physics in Radio Astronomy Group

 

 
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