Laser Interferometry and Gravitational Wave Astronomy
The final goal of all activities of this Division is the detection of gravitational waves and the development of gravitational-wave astronomy. This comprises the development and operation of large gravitational-wave detectors on the ground as well as in space, but also a full range of supporting laboratory experiments in quantum optics, atomic physics, and laser physics.
According to Einstein´s theory of General Relativity, accelerated masses produce gravitational waves – perturbations of spacetime propagating at the speed of light through the universe, unhindered by intervening mass. The direct observation of gravitational waves on September 14, 2015 added a new sense to our perception of the Universe.
In the future, we will for the first time listen to the Universe
- and survey compact stellar-mass binaries and study the structure of the Galaxy
- trace the formation, growth, and merger history of massive black holes
- explore stellar populations and dynamics in galactic nuclei
- confront General Relativity with observations
- probe new physics and cosmology with gravitational waves
- and complement our picture of the Universe and its evolution
The division develops and operates the GEO600 gravitational wave detector in cooperation with UK partners in Glasgow and Cardiff. The GEO collaboration is a world leader in detector technology. The laser systems designed for GEO600 are key components in the upgrade of the LIGO gravitational wave detectors in the USA.
The division plays also a leading role in the development of the space-based gravitational wave detector LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna). The current mission design for the ESA L3 mission opportunity is called evolving LISA (eLISA). In preparation for eLISA, the division has a major role in the LISA Pathfinder mission, which was launched on Dec 3, 2015 and which is testing the measurement and control systems designed for eLISA.
Karsten Danzmann and Bernard Schutz (then Director of the AEI division of Astrophysical Relativity) were among the leaders of the original LISA proposal to ESA in 1993, and the AEI has become a focal point for developing the eLISA mission in Europe.