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Understanding gravity using a COMprehensive search for fast-spinning Pulsars And CompacT binaries

Project description

Discovering pulsars and compact binaries for understanding gravity

Pulsars are a type of star that serve as valuable laboratories in space. By observing pulsars at radio wavelengths, scientists can gain rare insights into the nature of gravity near strongly self-gravitating bodies and the state of matter at supra-nuclear densities. The EU-funded COMPACT project aims to discover some of the most extreme types of pulsar laboratories through petabyte-scale data acquisition and processing. Specifically, the project will search for two specific kinds of pulsars: relativistic binary pulsars with orbital periods of a few minutes to a few hours around other neutron stars, white dwarves, or black holes, and pulsars with rapid spin periods of the order of a millisecond or less.

Objective

The description of gravity by Einstein's theory of general relativity has passed all its experimental tests with flying colours including the recent groundbreaking direct detection of gravitational waves. However, there still remain some glaring shortcomings, ranging from its irreconcilability with quantum mechanics to the dark energy that accelerates the expansion of our Universe. There are also several alternative theories that contend to be the best descriptor of gravity. Hence it is imperative to find new laboratories to test these theories and further our understanding of gravity. This is where pulsars, a special type of star, prove useful. Pulsars are remarkable laboratories in space. Observations of pulsars at radio wavelengths provide rare opportunities to understand how gravity works near strongly self-gravitating bodies, and provide clues on the state of matter at supra-nuclear densities. This provides important complementary knowledge to our understanding of gravity and nuclear physics compared to other experiments such as ground-based gravitational wave detectors. COMPACT is an ambitious project that aims to discover some of the most extreme classes of pulsar laboratories. The project will perform Petabyte-scale data acquisition and processing to search for two specific kinds of pulsars: (i) relativistic binary pulsars with orbital periods of just a few minutes to a few hours around other neutron stars, white dwarves or black holes and (ii) pulsars with extremely fast spin periods of the order of a millisecond or less. Even a single discovery of either class of pulsars has the potential to fundamentally change (or) solidify a huge range of poorly known physics from the internal composition of neutron stars, how they evolve in binaries, to our understanding of the effects of strongly gravitating bodies to the space-time in their vicinity. The survey also has immediate and profound implications for gravitational wave astronomy across multiple wavelengt

Host institution

MAX-PLANCK-GESELLSCHAFT ZUR FORDERUNG DER WISSENSCHAFTEN EV
Net EU contribution
€ 2 496 563,00
Address
HOFGARTENSTRASSE 8
80539 Munchen
Germany

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Region
Bayern Oberbayern München, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Research Organisations
Links
Total cost
€ 2 496 563,00

Beneficiaries (1)