Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics  (Hannover)

Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Hannover)

In 2002 the AEI Hannover branch was opened, as an extension of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute, AEI) in Potsdam. The AEI Hannover closely collaborates with the Institute for Gravitational Physics of the Leibniz Universität Hannover. Together they contribute to a new era of astronomy, which began with the first direct detection of gravitational waves on Earth on September 14, 2015. As part of this search, the AEI is a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC), which collects data from the world's most sensitive gravitational wave detectors, and operates the German-British gravitational-wave detector GEO600, located 20 kilometers south of Hannover. GEO600 could detect gravitational waves from the cosmic neighbourhood, if a nearby event were strong enough. The Institute also develops advanced measurement technologies and concepts for future gravitational-wave detectors. It leads the preparation and operation of the satellite missions LISA Pathfinder and eLISA (scheduled for launch in 2034) and is an important partner for the geodesy mission GRACE Follow-on.

The Hanover branch is a central partner in the global joint data analysis efforts of the LSC. To search the observational data for gravitational waves, the Hanover branch of AEI develops highly efficient analysis methods and implements them on supercomputers. For this purpose, it operates Atlas, the most powerful computer cluster in the world designed for gravitational-wave data analysis. Together with US partners, the AEI in Hanover also runs the distributed computing project Einstein@Home in which volunteers from all over the world participate in the 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 more
Department Laser interferometry and gravitational wave astronomy more
Gravitational waves from merging neutron stars
This cosmic event was also observed in visible light and provides an explanation for gamma-ray bursts more
<p>Nobel Prize awarded to gravitational wave researchers</p>
Congratulations from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam and Hannover, and the Leibniz Universität Hannover more
Gravitational waves spotted for the third time
LIGO observes a signal, which was once again discovered at the Albert Einstein Institute in Hannover more
Karsten Danzmann receives the 2017 Körber European Science Prize
Max Planck director and professor at Leibniz Universität Hannover honoured for the development of key technologies for gravitational-wave detection more
Neutron stars on the home PC
Astronomers find most massive double neutron star system with Einstein@Home more
Gravitational waves 2.0
Researchers observe a signal originating from two merging black holes of about 14 and 8 solar masses more
Research highlights from the Yearbook
Our Yearbook 2016 showcases the research carried out at the Max Planck Institutes. We selected a few reports to illustrate the variety and diversity of topics and projects. more
LISA Pathfinder paves the way for the detection of gravitational waves in space
Yearbook article 2016, Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, Hannover
Author: Jens Reiche more
LISA Pathfinder exceeds expectations
European satellite mission successfully demonstrates technologies for a gravitational waves observatory in space more
A pathfinder for gravitational waves
Max Planck researchers play a leading role in the LISA Pathfinder space mission more
The cosmos quakes

The cosmos quakes

May 27, 2015
How Max Planck researchers near Hanover listen for gravitational waves more
Max Planck Institutes play crucial role in ESA's next large missions
The European Space Agency is now selecting topics for the next large missions in which Max Planck researchers will play a crucial role more
Gamma pulsars from the home computer
Einstein@Home volunteers discover four cosmic lighthouses in data from NASA's Fermi gamma-ray space telescope more
Neutron stars in the computer cloud
Einstein@Home discovers 24 new pulsars in archival data more
Outsmarting Heisenberg

Outsmarting Heisenberg

June 23, 2013
Physicists from the Max Planck Society and Leibniz Universität Hannover develop a new concept to improve the sensitivity of gravitational-wave detectors more
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.
Albert Einstein postulated the existence of gravitational waves a century ago in his theory of general relativity, but these distortions in space-time have so far stubbornly resisted direct observation.
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The discovery of the first gravitational-wave signal

2017 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. more

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

2016 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. more

Developments in gravitational wave searches for binary systems

2014 Krishnan, Badri
Astronomy Astrophysics
Gravitational waves are predicted by the general theory of relativity. Binary systems consisting of neutron stars and black holes generate these tiny ripples in space-time, which are expected to be directly measured by large-scale interferometric detectors. Not only the measurement method, but also the data analysis is paramount for the first discoveries, since only sensitive and efficient methods can filter the weak signals from the detector noise. Scientists at the MPI for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) have helped to bring the first discoveries closer to reality. more

Gravitational wave astronomy: observing the dark side of the Universe

2013 Lück, Harald
Astronomy Astrophysics Quantum Physics
Two decades ago the construction of kilometer-scale gravitational wave detectors had started and the sensitivity has continuously been improved. Now these instruments are being upgraded to the second generation, which in a few years’ time will allow the first direct detection of gravitational waves and analysis of some astrophysical processes with gravitational waves. Routine gravitational wave astronomy though, will require the supreme sensitivity of third generation instruments, like the Einstein Telescope, an underground gravitational wave observatory, designed in a pan-European effort. more
Pulsars are rapidly rotating, highly magnetized neutron stars which act as cosmic lighthouses by flashing at radio, X-ray or gamma-ray wavelengths. The search for gamma-ray-only pulsars is extremely difficult and computing-intensive. Even high-tech telescopes, like the one aboard the Fermi satellite, register only a few gamma-ray photons per day from such a pulsar. Using a more efficient analysis method, originally developed for detection of gravitational waves from these fast spinning neutron stars, a number of previously unknown gamma-ray pulsars have been discovered in the Fermi data. more
A first direct detection of a gravitational wave signal is becoming more likely in the forthcoming years as the sensitivity of gravitational wave detectors is constantly improving. The German-British observatory GEO600 contributes to this development once more: For the first time in the world, the sensitivity of a gravitational wave detector will be improved by implementation of squeezed light. more

Searching gravitational waves with one of the world's fastest super computers

2009 Fehrmann, Henning; Aulbert, Carsten
In May 2008, the cluster „Atlas“ was inaugurated at the Albert Einstein Institute in Hannover and is now by far the largest computing cluster for the gravitational wave community. It will play a major role in the first detection of gravitational waves in the near future. It made its first appearance in the Top 500 list of supercomputers on rank 58 and was – due to the efficient network setup – the fastest cluster that is based on Gigabit ethernet worldwide. more

Space born gravitational wave detection: LISA and LISA Pathfinder

2007 García Marín, Antonio Francisco
The direct observation of gravitational waves will open a new experimental field in astronomy. Several detectors have been set up around the world and LISA has been projected to complement them from space by detecting gravitational waves at low frequencies. We present here the investigations at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics on the interferometry for LISA and its precursor mission LISA pathfinder. more

Innovative Optics for Gravitational Wave Astronomy

2005 Heurs, Michèle
The first direct detection of gravitational waves will mark the beginning of gravitational wave astronomy, opening a new window to the universe. The necessary high detection sensitivity calls for ultra-stable high power lasers and advanced stabilisation techniques as well as innovative new concepts. This article gives an overview of these worldwide efforts, in which the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) plays a leading role. more
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