Posted by on 24 March 2009
Today, Prof. Bruce Allen, Director at AEI Hannover of the Einstein@Home project, and Prof. Jim Cordes, of Cornell University and Chair of the Arecibo PALFA Consortium, announced that the Einstein@Home project is beginning to analyze data taken by the PALFA Consortium at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The Arecibo Observatory is the largest single-aperture radio telescope on the planet and is used for studies of pulsars, galaxies, solar system objects, and the Earth's atmosphere. Using new methods developed at the AEI, Einstein@Home will search Arecibo radio data to find binary systems consisting of the most extreme objects in the universe: a spinning neutron star orbiting another neutron star or a black hole. Current searches of radio data lose sensitivity for orbital periods shorter than about 50 minutes. But the enormous computational capabilities of the Einstein@Home project (equivalent to tens of thousands of computers) make it possible to detect pulsars in binary systems with orbital periods as short as 11 minutes.
"Discovery of a pulsar orbiting a neutron star or black hole, with a sub-hour orbital period, would provide tremendous opportunities to test General Relativity and to estimate how often such binaries merge,” said Cordes. The mergers of such systems are among the rarest and most spectacular events in the universe. They emit bursts of gravitational waves that current detectors might be able to detect, and they are also thought to emit bursts of gamma rays just before the merged stars collapse to form a black hole. Cordes added: “The Einstein@Home computing resources are a perfect complement to the data management systems at the Cornell Center for Advanced Computing and the other PALFA institutions."
"While our long-term goal is to detect gravitational waves, in the shorter-term we hope to discover at least a few new radio pulsars per year, which should be a lot of fun for Einstein@Home participants and should also be very interesting for astronomers. We expect that most of the project's participants will be eager to do both types of searches," said Allen. Einstein@Home participants will automatically receive work for both the radio and gravitational-wave searches.
The large data sets from the Arecibo survey are archived and processed initially at Cornell and other PALFA institutions. For the Einstein@Home project, data are sent to the Albert Einstein Institute in Hannover via high-bandwidth internet links, pre-processed and then distributed to computers around the world. The results are returned to AEI, Cornell, and UWM for further investigation.
The Einstein@Home project, launched in 2005, is an undertaking of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, and was primarily developed by UWM and the AEI. Einstein@Home is built using the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) developed at the University of California at Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory.
Prof. Dr. Bruce Allen, Director Albert Einstein Institute Callinstrasse 38, 30826 Hannover Germany +49 511 762 17145 or Prof. Bruce Allen Physics Department University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee 1900 East Kenwood Blvd. Milwaukee WI 53211 USA +1 414 229 4474 Prof. Jim Cordes Department of Astronomy Cornell University Ithaca, NY 14853 USA +1 607 255-0608
Albert Einstein Institute Susanne Milde firstname.lastname@example.org +49.331.583 93 55 Arecibo Observatory and Cornell University Blaine Friedlander email@example.com +1.607.254.8093 University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee Greg Walz-Chojnacki firstname.lastname@example.org +1.414.229.4454
The Arecibo Remote Command Center at UWM (ARCC@UWM) carries out remote observations for the PALFA project to search for new pulsars. Project participants include UWM undergraduate and local high school students who perform the remote observing and help with the analysis of the data collected. This work s funded by UWM's Office for Undergraduate Research.
Contact: Prof. Xavier Siemens Physics Department University of Wisconsin -- Milwaukee 1900 E Kenwood Blvd. Milwaukee, WI 53211, USA +1-414-229-4474