Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics

Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics

Since its foundation in 1995, the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute, AEI) in Potsdam-Golm has established itself as a leading international research center. Its research program covers the entire spectrum of gravitational physics: from the giant dimensions of the Universe to the tiny scales of strings. The AEI is the only institute in the world that brings together all of these key research fields. AEI scientists investigate the mathematical foundations of Einstein's theory of space-time and gravitation. Others work towards the unification of both fundamental theories of physics – general relativity and quantum mechanics – into a theory of quantum gravity. Other scientists do research on gravitational waves, neutron stars, black holes, the two-body problem in general relativity, and the analytical and numerical solutions of Einstein's equations. They are thus contributing to a new era of astronomy, which began on September 14, 2015 with the first direct detection of gravitational waves on Earth by LIGO.

Central research topics of the other AEI branch in Hannover are the development and implementation of data analysis algorithms for a variety of gravitational wave sources as well as work on gravitational wave detectors.


Am Mühlenberg 1
14476 Potsdam-Golm
Phone: +49 331 567-70
Fax: +49 331 567-7298

PhD opportunities

This institute has several International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS):
IMPRS on Gravitational Wave Astronomy
IMPRS for Mathematical and Physical Aspects of Gravitation, Cosmology and Quantum Field Theory

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

Department Astrophysical and Cosmological Relativity more
Department Quantum gravity and Unified Theories more
Department Computational Relativistic Astrophysics 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
“The first unequivocal indication of the inflation of the universe”
Interview with Max Planck Director Karsten Danzmann on the indirect observation of gravitational waves from the birth of our universe more
Quantum steps towards the Big Bang
A new approach to the unification of general theory of relativity and quantum theory more
What is behind Einstein’s turbulence?
Numerical calculations by scientists at the AEI give an initial insight into the relativistic properties of this mysterious process more
Beacons in space

Beacons in space

November 03, 2011
Pulsars are fascinating celestial bodies with an interesting history more
Better hearing with widely-spaced ears
The presence of an observatory in Japan, Australia or India would dramatically increase the probability of measuring gravitational waves more
The engine that powers short gamma-ray bursts
A simulation of colliding neutron stars helps to explain what could lie behind these cosmic bursts of radiation more
Einstein@Home detects unusual stellar pair
The neutron star and its companion could prove helpful in testing the general theory of relativity more
The world's lowest noise laser
Outsmarting quantum physics by organising the photons of a laser beam in an orderly fashion more

It’s the question of all scientific questions: How did the universe come into being? Jean-Luc Lehners at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam-Golm is addressing the question using state-of-the-art mathematical tools. In the process, he is also investigating the possibility that there was a precursor universe.

Black holes are a permanent fixture in science fiction literature. In reality, there is hardly a more extreme location in the universe. These mass monsters swallow everything that ventures too close to them: light, gas, dust and even entire stars. It sounds quite simple, but the nature of black holes is complex. Maria Rodriguez, Minerva Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Golm, wants to solve some of the puzzles these exotic cosmic bodies present.

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.

Gravitational waves are some of the most spectacular predictions of the 1915 general theory of relativity. However, it wasn’t until half a century later that physicist Joseph Weber attempted to track them down. In the early 1970s, Max Planck scientists also began working in this research field, and developed second-generation detectors. The groundwork laid by these pioneers meant the waves in space-time ceased to be just figments of the imagination: in September 2015 they were finally detected.
The properties of one particle can determine those of another even though the two are miles apart and don’t exchange any information. What appears to be a spooky phenomenon is what physicists call entanglement, and they have already observed it in small particles. Now Roman Schnabel, a professor at Leibniz University Hannover and at the nearby Max Planck institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute), aims to entangle two heavy mirrors.
Journalist in Residence
Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, Potsdam-Golm April 27, 2018
Ph.D. and Postdoctoral positions - Computational Relativistic Astrophysics
Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, Potsdam-Golm December 05, 2017

The first observation of gravitational waves from merging neutron stars

2018 Dietrich, Tim
Astronomy Astrophysics Particle Physics
Over 100 years after the formulation of the theory of general relativity by Albert Einstein and more than 30 years after the first discovery of a binary neutron star system, the gravitational wave signal of colliding neutron stars has been detected for the first time. more

Quantum gravity and unification

2017 Nicolai, Hermann
Astronomy Astrophysics Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics
General relativity theory and the standard model of particle physics describe physical phenomena correctly over a vast range of distances and are nevertheless incomplete. In order to understand what is happening inside a black hole or at the Big Bang, a new unified theory is sought which contains the standard model and the theory of gravitation as limiting cases, but whose mathematical contradictions are overcome. Maybe reflections on symmetry can help here. more

Stable or not stable? A spacetime on the test bench

2016 Maliborski, Maciej; Schell, Christian
Astronomy Astrophysics Particle Physics Quantum Physics
The stability of solutions to Einstein’s equations is essential for the physical interpretation. However, its investigations are mathematically challenging. The Anti-de Sitter space (AdS) is a frequently used solution in theoretical physics, even though only recently insights about its stability were achieved. This article reviews the current state of research concerning that question, in particular the coexistence of stable and instable regimes. more
Short gamma-ray bursts are highly energetic flashes of gamma rays lasting less than two seconds. They are most likely produced by the merger of two neutron stars in a binary system and are among the most dramatic events observed in the Universe. Despite decades of scientific progress the detailed physical processes that generate these bursts still remain elusive. Recent numerical simulations on supercomputers, however, play a vital role in unraveling the nature of these bursts. more

10+16 dimensional superspace as a building kit for scattering amplitudes

2015 Schlotterer, Oliver
Mathematics Particle Physics Quantum Physics
Scattering amplitudes describe the interactions of elementary particles and form the foundations to predict the results of measurements. They exhibit significantly richer mathematical structures and symmetries as the conventional Feynman-diagram prescription for their computation gives rise to expect. In the subsequent, a formalism with additional symmetries and spatial dimensions is introduced which manifests the hidden elegance of scattering amplitudes and allows for an intuitive approach. more

From here to infinity on a single computer

2014 Rinne, Oliver
Astronomy Astrophysics Mathematics

When solving Einstein's equations numerically, one faces the problem of treating an infinite asymptotically flat spacetime with finite computing resources. Here a decomposition of spacetime into hyperboloidal surfaces approaching lightlike infinity is considered. Upon compactification the Einstein equations develop formally singular terms, which can nevertheless be evaluated explicitly. Based on this method, stable numerical evolutions of spacetimes containing black holes and gravitational waves or matter fields have been achieved.


Fishing for gravitational waves

2013 Babak, Stanislav; Jasiulek, Michael; Schutz, Bernard F.
Astronomy Astrophysics

The ground-based gravitational wave observatories, eLISA and pulsar timing arrays span a huge frequency range and probe very different sources of gravitational waves. As instruments are improved and the data analysis techniques become even more robust and sophisticated, detections become more and more likely. Conservatively, we expect a first detection of gravitational waves within the next 10 years, and it seems likely to happen in half that time.


Inflation and cycles in the multiverse

2012 Lehners, Jean-Luc
Astronomy Astrophysics Mathematics
There are currently two theories that can explain both the homogeneity of the universe and the temperature fluctuations in the cosmic background radiation: inflation and the cyclic universe. Both models however lead to different predictions regarding the fine details of the distributions of these temperature fluctuations, so that upcoming data will be able to distinguish between them. According to string theory, both types of universe should be physically realised. This begs the question of whether one can already predict on a theoretical level which type of universe we are likely to inhabit. more

How stable are Black Holes?

2011 Andersson, Lars
Einstein's theory of general relativity gives a description of gravitating systems like stars and black holes. For simple systems such as a time-independent and rotating black hole, exact and explicit solutions to the field equations of general relativity are known. It is of great interest to investigate whether these solutions are dynamical stable, i. e., if the small changes in the initial data lead to solutions with similar properties, since it is only then, that the exact and explicitly known solutions can be said to be physically relevant. more

Listening to the Universe with gravitational waves

2010 Amaro Seoane, Pau
Nowadays it is well-established that in the centre of the Milky Way a massive black hole (MBH) with a mass of about four million solar masses is lurking. While we start to have a defined picture about the origin and growth of supermassive black holes, MBHs with smaller masses such as the one in our galactic centre remain an understudied enigma. The key to understanding these holes, and how some of them grow by orders of magnitude in mass, is to understand the dynamics of the stars in the galactic neighbourhood. more

Geometry of the expanding Universe

2010 Schuller, Frederic P.
Definitive conclusions may be drawn occasionally even from incomplete information. Indeed, employing a remarkable interplay between various areas of modern mathematics, one is able to discuss the entire class of spacetime geometries that may serve as backgrounds for the consistent propagation of matter. Such generalized geometries emerge from theories of quantum gravity, but also provide a far-reaching geometric point of view to the spectacular experimental observation that our universe expands at an accelerated rate. more
This article is concerned with models of rotating bodies which are composed of fluid matter and whose internal structure is determined to a great extent by its own gravitational field. In particular, these models exhibit an equilibrium between attracting gravitational forces, repelling pressure and centrifugal forces. By virtue of this balance of forces the body takes on a typical shape: a figure of equilibrium. In the following it is described which principle physical and mathematical aspects arise and, moreover, the complexity of this field is demonstrated by means of a number of examples. more

How many dimensions has our world?

2008 Theisen, Stefan; Pössel, Markus
String theory is a central player in our search for a consistent theory of quantum gravity. The theory forces us to re-evaluate familiar conceptions of space and time. In the following article this shall be illustrated with examples. more
A new generation of gravitational wave observatories offers the possibility for the first direct detection of gravitational waves. LIGO, the Laser Interferometric Gravitational Wave Observatory, has completed its two-year-long fifth science run (“S5”), the first at its design sensitivity, and preliminary results from the analysis of S5 data are producing new information about astrophysical phenomena. more

An icon of cosmology and its mathematical background

2007 Rendall, Alan D.
This article describes recent developments in cosmology, in particular those connected with a certain curve (referred to here as 'icon') which arises from observations of the cosmic microwave background radiation. In this context it is explained how scientists try to get a better theoretical understanding of this curve and other questions in science with the aid of mathematics, especially analysis and geometry. more

From the death of a star to the birth of a black hole: numerical solutions of the Einstein equations

2006 Rezzolla, Luciano; Baiotti, Luca; Ott, Christian David; Pollney, Denis
The numerical relativity group at the Albert Einstein Institute has recently made important contributions to the solution of the Einstein equations in regimes in which no analytic approach is possible, such as the death of a star, the birth of a black hole or the fate of a binary system of black holes. more

New symmetry structures of string theory

2006 Kleinschmidt, Axel
We present a novel definition of a unified theory of all four known fundamental forces. This definition was developed at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute, AEI) and utilizes new results concerning the symmetry structures of string theory. more
This paper is a heuristic introduction into current mathematical research in differential geometry, which provided the basic framework for formulating Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. Specifically, recent results in the field of geometric evolution equations are described, which concern the so-called Yamabe flow. more
Between the construction start of GEO600 in 1995 and the preliminary end of construction in 2003 there have been several years of exciting development of a new instrument to explore the universe. With the data taken during the first scientific data run (S1) it is now possible to set upper limits on the strength of gravitational waves from rotating neutron stars for the first time. more

Integrable Super-Spinchains and Rotating Superstrings

2004 Staudacher, Matthias
Particle Physics Quantum Physics
We explain a novel approach to the study of four-dimensional quantum field theories using long-range, integrable super-spinchains, which was recently developed at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute). It allows deep insights into the nature of superstring theory. more
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