Hot on the heels of Albert Einstein

Scientists from the Hannover Center for Experimental Gravitational Physics (Internationales Zentrum für Gravitationsphysik in Hannover) are at the forefront of gravitational wave research and are developing the most modern lasers in the world.

July 11, 2005

Federal Minister of Education and Research, Edelgard Bulmahn, is visiting the Hannover Center for Experimental Gravitational Physics as part of her innovation tour. We cordially invite you to attend: 14 July 2005 2:15 pm - 3:30 pm, Callinstr. 38, 30167 Hanover


2:00 pm. Welcome and introduction

Prof. Dr. Ludwig Schätzl, President of the Leibniz Universität Hannover

Prof. Dr. Karsten Danzmann, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI)

2:10 pm. Short welcoming speech by the Federal Minister OF Education and Research, Edelgard Bulmahn

2:20 pm. Live hook-up to GEO600 with video and audio transmission of current measurements

2:25 pm. Visit to the experiment hall and lab tour including the clean room and the squeezing lab

3:00 pm. Refreshments


The key goal of the Center for Experimental Gravitational Physics is to directly measure the gravitational waves predicted by Albert Einstein - tiny curvatures of space-time - and to promote gravitational wave astronomy. Ground-breaking insights into the development of the universe are anticipated. A direct measurement of gravitational waves is within reach due to technological advances involving the new generation of ground-based and space-based detectors. Hannover quantum optics scientists, as well as atomic and laser physicists, have all worked on this project for decades, because in the final analysis it is about measuring, e.g. a thousandth of the diameter of a proton.



•  the German-British gravitational wave detector GEO600 operates in the Ruthe district of Hannover,

•  the GEO Collaboration is the world-wide leader in the area of detector technology and

•  the optical and mechanical systems developed for GEO600 will be the key    technologies for the next generation of American and Italian detectors.


The Center for Experimental Gravitational Physics is also playing a leading role in the development of a huge gravitational wave detector in space. With an arm length of 5 million kilometres, LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) will be the largest measuring instrument that has ever been made by humanity. LISA is a joint project of ESA and NASA and will be launched in 2013. However, first the ESA mission, LISA Pathfinder, will test the key technologies of the measurement and control systems in space. The launch of this mission is scheduled for 2008/9. In Hannover the new optical measurement technology is being developed and tested in the heart of the satellite itself.


Cooperation with business

The basic research at the Center for Experimental Gravitational Physics is a good example of close co-operation between science and business, since development of the detector has provided important impetus to product development in the area of laser technology. In the meantime, close ties have developed with business start-ups and young entrepreneurs.

The Center for Experimental Gravitational Physics

It is operated jointly by the Universität Hannover and the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in the Golm district of Potsdam. It has 72 employees. The Director is Prof. Dr. Karsten Danzmann.



Is a listening post into the universe that seeks to measure gravitational waves and that makes completely new insights about the universe possible. Gravitational waves were already predicted in 1915 by Albert Einstein. They bear witness to the explosion of stars, the clash of black holes and even to the big bang itself. The experimental demonstration and the analysis of gravitational waves are among the greatest challenges of modern physics. Since their frequencies are located within the range of audibility, we can only hope that physicists and mathematicians will soon let us hear the rumbling and whistling of the universe!


Gravitational waves - the smallest rhythmic compressions and expansions of space

Gravitational waves, the predicted ripples of space-time predicted by Albert Einstein, propagate at the speed of light and measurements of them are planned using the detectors GEO600 and LISA. Exciting new insights into the structure of our universe are expected upon the detection of gravitational waves. How did our universe come into being? How will it continue to evolve?

100 years ago Albert Einstein, through the special theory of relativity, changed our ideas about space and time. Moreover, in 1915, through the general theory of relativity, he showed that gravitation is not to be understood as a force, but rather as a characteristic of the geometry of space and time. In 1916, he predicted gravitational waves for the first time: the smallest ripples of space-time, which are produced by the accelerated movement of masses and that propagate themselves in space at the speed of light.

The passage of a gravitational wave manifests itself in the form of the smallest rhythmic compressions and expansions of space: even if an extremely powerful event takes place in a neighbouring galaxy, such as the explosion of a star, gravitational waves will then change the distance between the earth and the sun only by the diameter of a hydrogen atom – and that only takes place for several thousandths of a second.

Albert Einstein assumed that the effects of gravitational waves would never be capable of being directly measured. He was probably wrong on this point. This is because the modern technology of laser interferometry has now developed the required degree of sensitivity. Another challenge is to filter out the right information from the huge amounts of data being collected.

In the 1970s, the American astronomers Russell Hulse and Joseph Taylor were able to provide indirect proof of gravitational waves. In 1993 they received the Nobel Prize for Physics for this achievement.

The award of the Nobel Prize for the research work of Hulse and Taylor makes clear the importance of gravitational wave astronomy for modern research. Such research is expected to provide new and ground-breaking insights into the origins and nature of the universe - as the use of traditional astronomical methods still leaves 96% of the universe hidden. Direct detection of gravitational waves is one of the most important international research objectives - the American National Science Foundation (NSF) alone invests around a quarter of its total expenditures in physics research on gravitational wave astronomy.

The German-British gravitational wave detector GEO600 is one of the four earth-based facilities and has been in operation in the Ruthe district in the south of Hannover for two years. LISA is a gravitational wave detector designed to operate in space. It will probably be launched in 2013.  LISA will be one of the most sensitive and by far the largest measuring instrument ever built. The AEI plays a leading role in the design and development of these technically extremely demanding projects.

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