Fundamental Physics in Radio Astronomy

The measurement methods used in radio astronomy enable many issues of fundamental physics to be studied, ranging from the equation-of-state of super-dense matter (in neutron stars, for example) to the investigation of fundamental forces, such as magnetism and gravitation.

The work of the research group focuses particularly on searching for and investigating fast-rotating neutron stars which are visible as radio pulsars. Their observation makes it possible to test the General Theory of Relativity (Lense-Thirring effect), for example, as well as alternative theories of gravitation. It additionally aims to detect a long-wave cosmological background of gravitational waves, which is fed by different sources.

Further investigations use the information on cosmic magnetic fields which is contained in radio emission. The group investigates pulsars in order to study the magnetic fields of the Milky Way, and the observation of remote galaxies provides information on cosmic magnetism. Magnetic fields also play a role in the formation and evolution of neutron stars so that supernovae, as well as the properties of different types of radio-loud neutron stars, can be analysed.

The research group is closely involved with the development of innovative radio telescopes and is engaged in projects like LOFAR and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

Research Topics

  • Fundamental physics and fundamental interactions: gravitation, electromagnetism, strong and weak interaction, physical constants, equivalent principles
  • Sources of gravitational waves, detectors at low frequencies / mass of the graviton
  • Tests of the general theory of relativity and alternative theories
  • Properties of black holes
  • Fundamental properties of matter: matter at high densities, equation of state, physics in strong magnetic fields
  • Properties of neutron stars: mass, inertia, population, properties at formation, supernovae, binary development
  • Visual observations of companions of pulsars
  • Dynamic radio sky
  • Search for pulsars in the radio and gamma range
  • Cosmic evolution: dark energy, dark matter, primordial magnetic fields, cosmic radiation, evolution of galaxies
  • Interstellar medium within the galaxy, galactic magnetic field, galactic centre
  • Cosmic magnetic fields: galaxies, dynamo models, extragalactic and intragalactic fields, radio halos and galactic winds
  • Instrumentation and future observatories: digital signal processing, Lofar, SKA, SKA Pathfinder
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