Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Hanover)

Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Hanover)

In 2002 the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute, AEI) in Hannover was opened, as an extension of the already existing MPI (Albert Einstein Institute, AEI) in Potsdam. The Hannover sub-institute closely collaborates with the Institute for Gravitational Physics at Leibniz University Hannover. Together they play a leading role in a new era of astronomy, which began with the first direct detection of gravitational waves on September 14, 2015. These tiny space-time ripples herald major cosmic events.

As part of this research, the Hannover institute is partly a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which collects data from the world's most sensitive gravitational-wave observatories, and operates the German-British gravitational-wave detector GEO600, located 20 kilometers south of Hannover. GEO600 is a key technology development center of the international gravitational-wave research community. Technologies developed and tested in the GEO project are now used in all large gravitational-wave detectors in the world. The Institute closely collaborates with the other large detectors and develops advanced measurement technologies and concepts for future gravitational-wave detectors. It leads the preparation of the satellite mission LISA, is an important partner for the geodesy mission GRACE Follow-on, and contributes to the development of the Einstein Telescope.

To analyze data from the worldwide network of gravitational-wave detectors, the sub-institute develops highly efficient mathematical methods and implements them on supercomputers. Among other things, it operates Atlas, the world's most powerful computer cluster tailored for gravitational wave data analysis. Together with U.S. partners, the Hannover sub-institute of the AEI leads the Einstein@Home computing project, in which volunteers from all over the world participate in data analysis with their PCs, laptops or smartphones.


Callinstr. 38
30167 Hannover
Phone: +49 511 762-2229
Fax: +49 511 762-2784

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS on Gravitational Wave Astronomy

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Observational relativity and cosmology


Department Laser interferometry and gravitational wave astronomy


Department Precision Interferometry and Fundamental Interactions


When a black hole and a neutron star merge

Black hole with bright companion star in the midst of other stars

Data from the MeerKAT radio telescope reveal an object at the boundary between a black hole and a neutron star


Observation of multiple ringdown modes in a black hole merger


Extreme stars in the Milky Way

November 28, 2023

Researchers discover hundreds of new gamma-ray pulsars

Against the black background of the universe, a neutron star is sketched as a small red sphere, surrounded by a much larger network of magnetic field lines, which surround the neutron star like a wreath. From the axis of this bipolar magnetic field pokes a green and confined beam of light.

With Einstein@Home and Zooniverse, citizens can identify previously unknown pulsars from home

Show more

It should not actually exist - a black hole with a mass 85 times that of our sun. But that is precisely what astronomers have discovered. Apparently, this heavyweight used to be part of a binary star system before it merged with its equally massive partner. The resulting space-time quake unleashed gravitational waves that are posing many a puzzle for researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam and Hanover.

Humankind has always been fascinated by the mythical concept of a cyclic universe that ends in a cosmic conflagration and is then reborn. Modern Big Bang theory that suggests an infinitely expanding universe rules out this possibility. But has the final word been spoken on the issue? Anna Ijjas investigates this fundamental question at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover.

The Einstein@Home project makes it possible for anyone to search for gravitational waves on their own PC, laptop or smartphone and thus become scientific explorer themselves. Bruce Allen, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover, is the founder of this citizen science project. The software is now also used to track down pulsars in big data. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn are also involved in this search.

Albert Einstein was right: gravitational waves really do exist. They were detected on September 14, 2015. This, on the other hand, would have surprised Einstein, as he believed they were too weak to ever be measured. The researchers were therefore all the more delighted - particularly those at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, which played a major role in the discovery.

… is not at all where the researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics want to be. The issue at hand is nothing less than the base of one of the pillars of our modern world view, the theory of general relativity. In 1915, Albert Einstein formulated, among other things, the theory that the accelerated movement of masses causes disturbances that move through space at the speed of light. He called these disturbances gravitational waves. The Earth, for instance, creates a bulge in space-time on its annual orbit around the Sun, emitting gravitational waves in the process. Given the enormous number of planets and binary stars, space must be utterly teeming with these waves. In most cases, however, the cosmic ripples are too weak to be detected with terrestrial detectors. Fortunately, there are far stronger tremors in the universe: the dance or collision of neutron stars with black holes, or the explosion of a massive sun into a supernova. Such violent events are what scientists around the world are waiting for – for example out in a field in Ruthe, near Hanover. This is where GEO600 stretches out its two 600-meter-long arms. The evacuated stainless steel tubes measure 60 centimeters in diameter and are corrugated to increase their stability. They house the second-longest laser beam interferometer in Europe. The measuring principle is based on the fact that gravitational waves alternately compress and stretch space. If they speed through GEO600, they will also change the paths of the laser beam that runs through the two perpendicularly arranged tubes. This tiny length difference on the order of 10-19 meters causes the light waves in the detector to fall out of step. A signal appears. Alarm! To date, however, there have been only test alarms. The researchers are working on continuously increasing the system’s sensitivity. When the cosmos quakes again, they want to finally capture the gravitational waves and thus open up a new window into space.

No job offers available

Observing gravitational waves in space: LISA on the home stretch

2022 Karsten Danzmann, Gerhard Heinzel, Martin Hewitson, Benjamin Knispel, Guido Müller, Jens Reiche

Astronomy Astrophysics

The planned “Laser Interferometer Space Antenna” (LISA) space mission will observe gravitational waves in space and thus write a new chapter of astronomy. After decades of preparation, LISA is now on the home stretch. The three satellites are scheduled to be built starting in 2024 and will be launched into space in the early 2030s. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) founded the project, accompanied it through ups and downs, and will continue to play a crucial role in realizing the mission.


Einstein@Home discovers black widow pulsar

2020 Nieder, Lars

Astronomy Astrophysics

The mystery of a gamma-ray source known for two decades has finally been solved. An extremely rapidly rotating neutron star in a binary system is the source of the gamma rays. For this discovery, 10 years of gamma-ray data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has been analysed, using the distributed volunteer computing project Einstein@Home. The thorough study of this neutron star and its companion using gamma-ray data and optical observations reveals a truly extreme binary system. Material evaporated from the companion star likely blocks radio waves from the neutron star.


Climate research with gravitational-wave technology

2018 Gerhard Heinzel

Astronomy Astrophysics Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics

On 22 May 2018, the two GRACE Follow-On satellites launched into Earth orbit on a Falcon-9 rocket. The aim: to continue the GRACE satellite measurements, which is important among other things for climate research, by monitoring the Earth's gravitational field. On board: A laser interferometer from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute; AEI) in Hanover, which will serve as a model for future missions and as a step towards the LISA gravitational wave observatory. The first very promising preliminary results are already coming in before the science phase.


The discovery of the first gravitational-wave signal

2016 Drago, Marco; Lundgren, Andrew

Astronomy Astrophysics Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics

On 14 September 2015, the Advanced LIGO instruments detected gravitational waves for the first time ever. The signal came from the merger of two black holes, each with the mass of about 30 Suns, in a distance of 1.3 billion light-years to Earth. Albert Einstein had predicted the existence of these ripples in spacetime in 1916. The first hours of this discovery of the century took place at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover in Bruce Allen's “Observational Relativity and Cosmology” division. The authors were also the first persons to see the signal.


LISA Pathfinder paves the way for the detection of gravitational waves in space

2015 Reiche, Jens; Hewitson, Martin; Grothues, Hans-Georg; Knispel, Benjamin; Danzmann, Karsten

Astronomy Astrophysics

The LISA Pathfinder satellite mission demonstrates core technologies for future gravitational-wave observatories in space like eLISA. These observatories will study low-frequency gravitational waves, which are emitted by, e. g., binary supermassive black holes or galactic binary stars. LISA Pathfinder was launched on December 3, 2015, and has commenced its science operations in March 2016. LISA Pathfinder will lead to a comprehensive model of all significant physical noise sources that can be extrapolated to the eLISA mission.

Go to Editor View