Patrick Weltevrede

Lecturer

Patrick Weltevrede

We are pushing the boundaries of our knowledge by making unexpected discoveries; by making observations, we constantly find things that do not fit into the framework of current theories. For me, the most exciting aspect of this is to think about the consequences it has for theory, and to speculate about how we can understand these new observations.

One thing that stands us apart from other universities is that we have access to radio telescopes in Jodrell Bank. Some of these telescopes are not only used for research, but also by students to do laboratory experiments.

The Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics is a vibrant research department and the Lovell telescope is extremely important for the research area I'm most active in.

Manchester is definitely the place to be!

My research

My research focuses on neutron stars. Neutron stars are stellar remnants formed during supernova explosions. These ultra-dense objects (a teaspoon of material would have the mass of a mountain) are so dense that atoms can no longer exist.

Pulsars are a type of neutron stars which generate radio waves above their magnetic poles, beamed away from the star. The magnetic poles are in general far away from the rotational poles of the star, allowing pulsars to act as cosmic lighthouses operating at radio wavelengths. One of the things I'm interested in finding out is in what way the radio waves are generated, although there are many more aspects to pulsar research.

The Lovell telescope at Jodrell Bank is one of the most important telescopes used to study pulsars. It has been involved in the discovery and characterisation of the majority of all known pulsars.

We're highly influential in the field of pulsar timing arrays, where we try to get the first ever direct detection of gravitational waves. These waves are predicted to be generated, for example, by supermassive black holes throughout the universe as predicted by general relativity.

Another example of how our pulsar research links in with fundamental physics is the study of binary systems. The best constraints on the validity of general relativity in the strong field regime come from very precise measurements of these orbits.

We are pushing the boundaries of our knowledge by making unexpected discoveries; by making observations, we constantly find things that do not fit into the framework of current theories. For me, the most exciting aspect of this is to think about the consequences it has for theory, and to speculate about how we can understand these new observations.

My teaching

I'm teaching two 3rd year lab experiments that take place in Jodrell Bank. One experiment is about measuring the rotation velocity of our own galaxy and two nearby galaxies to demonstrate the existence of dark matter. One of the big questions in modern astronomy is to find out what this dark matter is composed of.

It's very rewarding to be able to explain something to a student and see the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. This usually happens when interacting with an individual or a small group of students. Our tutorial system and the lab experiments make this possible. This type of teaching also allows discussion of the latest developments in more advanced physics or research in which a particular student is interested.

When a student completes their course, they should have a much deeper understanding of general physics. In addition, the student will have encountered many of the hot topics in research undertaken here at Manchester and around the world. This combination allows the student to fully appreciate how wonderful our universe and the laws of physics are.

▲ Up to the top