ERC Advanced Grant for research by Peter Jonker
Peter Jonker, Professor of Observational High-energy Astrophysics, was awarded a €3 million research grant for research on fast X-ray flashes. Back in 2013, Jonker discovered the first fast X-ray flash. Until recently, these flashes could only be found by chance in satellite observations, in the weeks and often even years after a flash had gone off. This made it virtually impossible to study light at other wavelengths, such as visible light, which accompanies such flashes.
Recent research by Jonker’s group and others suggests that these flashes could well be formed immediately after two neutron stars merge. We are now also able to ‘hear’ such events via gravitational wave detections. The new Einstein Probe X-ray satellite will be launched at the end of this year. This will allow researchers to quickly find the flashes, as well as the visible light released with them.
Jonker: “If the new research study shows that these fast X-ray flashes are indeed associated with gravitational waves measured when two neutron stars merge, we can combine the data, thus creating a unique opportunity to investigate the expansion rate of the universe. Our current measurements of this expansion rate do not match. Furthermore, we will be able to investigate where rare earth metals such as platinum and gold are formed. We think that these metals are formed when neutron stars merge, but this is still uncertain. Finally, it could well be that more than one kind of source is responsible for these flashes. We see a lot of them, so maybe we will discover a totally new kind of source.”
Peter Jonker and Andrew Levan with the research group.
Uta Noppeney also receives an ERC Advanced Grant for her research project entitled ‘Making Sense of the Senses: casual inference in a complex dynamic multisensory world’. Full press release on ru.nl.