ERC grant for consortium member Peter Jonker and his group
Peter Jonker will receive an ERC Advanced Grant of 3 million euros for his research into fast X-ray flashes. As early as 2013, Jonker discovered the first fast X-ray flash. Until recently, these flashes could only be found by chance during satellite observations. They were not discovered until weeks and often even years after a flash was emitted. This made it virtually impossible to study light at other wavelengths such as visible light associated with such flashes.
Recent research by Jonker's group (see picture above) and others suggests that these flashes may have formed immediately after two neutron stars merged. Such events can now also be 'heard' via gravitational wave detections. The new X-ray satellite 'Einstein Probe' will be launched at the end of this year. The flashes can then be found quickly, just like the visible light that is released.
Jonker: "If the new research does indeed show that these fast X-ray flashes are related to gravitational waves measured during the merger of two neutron stars, then we can combine the data. This provides a unique opportunity to investigate the expansion rate of the universe - something still debated. Furthermore, we can study where rare earth metals such as platinum and gold are formed. We think that they are formed when neutron stars merge, but this is still uncertain. Finally, it may well be that there are more sources responsible for these flashes, because we see a lot of them - so maybe we discover a completely new kind of source."
Read more about it here (in Dutch)