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Michael Kramer
Michael Kramer, Director of the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie and Professor of Astrophysics at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester.

Jodrell astrophysicist receives prestigious award for testing Einstein

16 July 2009

Michael Kramer, Director of the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie (MPIfR) in Bonn, Germany, and Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (JBCA), has this week received one of the prestigious Marcel Grossman Awards.

Prof. Kramer has been recognised at the latest Marcel Grossman meeting this week in Paris for his fundamental contributions to pulsar astrophysics, and notably for having first confirmed the existence of spin-orbit precession in binary pulsars.

The Marcel Grossmann Meetings were founded in 1975 by Remo Ruffini and Abdus Salam with the aim of reviewing developments in theoretical and experimental general relativity (Einstein's theory of gravity), gravitation, and relativistic field theories. They provide an international discussion forum for physicists and astronomers. They are organized at different locations and take place every three years.

According to Einstein's General Relativity the rotational axis of a pulsar moving in the gravitational field of a companion continously changes its orientation (geodetic precession). Michael Kramer was able to detect such changes for the first time using radio observations of pulsar PSR B1913+16 (the Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Russell Hulse and Joseph Taylor in 1993 for the discovery of this pulsar) made with the Effelsberg Radio Telescope in Germany. In the following years, Michael Kramer, working at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank, as part of an international team of astronomers, has used the newly-found double pulsar system, PSR J0737-3039, to conduct the best-ever tests of Einstein's Theory of Gravity for strong gravitational fields.

Effelsberg Radio Telescope Lovell Radio Telescope
The 100-metre Effelsberg Radio Telescope
(Credit: N. Tacken, MPIfR).
The 76-metre Lovell Radio Telescope at Jodrell Bank
(Credit: Anthony Holloway, Jodrell Bank).

Michael Kramer obtained his PhD in 1995 with a study of pulsars and neutron stars at MPIfR. After his time as an MPG Otto-Hahn fellow at Berkeley, he returned to the MPIfR. In autumn 1999, he became a lecturer in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester. From 2005 he was head of the pulsar group at Jodrell Bank and since 2006 full professor of astrophysics at the University of Manchester. Since March 2009 he has held a joint position as Director of the MPIfR in Bonn and as Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Manchester.

Other laureates of the Marcel Grossmann Award at this year's meeting are Christine Jones and Iaan Einasto (Individual Awards) and the "Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifique" in France (Institutional Award). Laureates from previous years include for example, John Archibald Wheeler (1988), Stephen Hawking (1991), Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1994), Riccardo Giacconi (2000) and Joachim Trümper (2006).

"It is a great honor to stand in line with such excellent scientists who have received the Marcel Grossmann Award before", says Michael Kramer.

The Double Pulsar
The Double Pulsar system: This illustration shows the two pulsars which orbit their common centre of mass in only 147 minutes. The system was discovered by an international team including Michael Kramer in 2003. The system provides the best laboratory for strong gravitational fields presently known. Credit: Michael Kramer.

Original Publications

Determination of the Geometry of the PSR B1913+16 System by Geodetic Precession, Michael Kramer, Astrophysical Journal Vol. 509, pp. 856-860 (1998).

Tests of General Relativity from Timing the Double Pulsar, Michael Kramer et al., Science Vol. 314, pp. 97-102 (2006).

Further Information

12th Marcel Grossmann Meeting, Paris July 12-18.

Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie (MPIfR) and its Fundamental Physics in Radio Astronomy research group.

Michael Kramer's Homepage at MPIfR.

Jodrell Bank Pulsar Astrophysics.

Large radio telescopes used in this research: Arecibo, Effelsberg, Green Bank, Jodrell Bank, Parkes.


For more information please contact Alex Waddington, Media Relations Officer, The University of Manchester, 0161 275 8387 / 07717 881569.

The UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) support the pulsar work with the Lovell Telescope through a rolling grant.