Whistling neutron stars: relativistic phenomena at the Mannheim Planetarium

The Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute, AEI) is presenting current research projects in an exhibition

March 26, 2009

Anyone who has a computer with an Internet connection can now participate in the search for radio pulsars through Einstein@Home, an international project for the evaluation of scientific data, which has recently analysed the data of the radio telescope in Arecibo (Puerto Rico) and that searches for corresponding signals in this data. At the Mannheim Planetarium visitors can learn more about this project and the search for gravitational waves and radio pulsars up to the end of May 2009.

Interactive astrophysics

At the Mannheim Planetarium, an interactive simulation developed by the AEI Hannover will be shown for the first time. It presents a twin-star system in which one of the two partners is a pulsar - a fast rotating neutron star with a strong magnetic field. The visitors can change the characteristics of the pulsar, such as mass, rotational frequency, axis inclinations or the size of the orbit, and then observe the influence this has on the radiated pulses.

In a quiz, visitors can identify and listen to signals from gravitational waves. The inaudible space-time waves have frequencies in the audio range. If they are electrically converted and played through a loudspeaker, the whistling and chirping sounds of the cosmos become audible.

Another exhibit explains how gravitational waves are measured through the gravitational wave detector GEO600 in Ruthe near Hannover. These tiny distortions of space-time stretch space in the one direction and compress it perpendicularly. These changes in length can be observed with a Michelson interferometer that the visitors themselves can try out during the exhibition.

These and other experiments and interactions can be seen at the Mannheim Planetarium until the end of May.



Wilhelm-Varnholt-Allee 1

68165 Mannheim, Germany

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