The international group led by prof. Roberto Mignani from our department carried out the observations of the neutron star RX J1856.5-3754 with the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the ESO Cerro Paranal Observatory (Chile). They detected the high optical linear polarization of light (http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1641/?lang) that suggests that the empty space around the neutron star is subject to a quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence. The phenomena had never been confirmed empirically, because it can be detected only in the presence of enormously strong magnetic fields, such as those around neutron stars. The VLT polarization measurement seems to constitute the very first observational support for the predictions of QED vacuum polarization effects. The European Southern Observatory is a 16-nation (including Poland) intergovernmental research organization for ground-based astronomy.
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Dr hab. Dorota Rosińska, prof. UZ, as an expert in the field of astrophysical properties of binary systems, takes part in the Polish team POLGRAW. This group of scientists analyzes data from international gravitational wave detectors LIGO and VIRGO. Last year nine members of the team (including D. Rosińska) were among the authors of the first article announcing the first direct detection of gravitational waves (The LIGO Scientific Collaboration, The Virgo Collaboration, Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger, PRL 116, 061102 (2016)) and subsequent papers devoted to the detection of gravitational waves. Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves one hundred years ago, but it is only now that scientists have been able to detect them.
The scientific group at our department led by dr. hab. Dorota Rosińska, prof. UZ deals with the analysis of data from gravitational wave detectors and modeling of astrophysical sources of gravitational waves. Recently she has been awarded (together with the team of Polish physicists participating in the LIGO project) the Wojciech Rubinowicz scientific prize by Polish Physical Society for outstanding achievements in 2016.