Laser Interferometry and Gravitational Wave Astronomy
This department's research focus is on the development of gravitational wave detectors on Earth as well as in space. This comprises also a full range of supporting laboratory experiments in quantum optics 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 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 department 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 hunters – the detection of gravitational waves
The department plays also a leading role in the development of the space-based gravitational wave detector LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna). In preparation for LISA, the department has a major role in the LISA Pathfinder mission, which was launched on Dec 3, 2015 and which successfully tested the measurement and control systems designed for LISA.
Karsten Danzmann and Bernard Schutz (then Director of the AEI department 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 LISA mission in Europe.