AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 137 Square Kilometer Array
Poster, Wednesday, 9:20am-6:30pm, January 11, 2006, Exhibit Hall

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[137.04] Key Science with the Square Kilometer Array: Strong-field Tests of Gravity using Pulsars and Black Holes

J. M. Cordes (Cornell University), M. Kramer (University of Manchester, Jodrell Bank Observatory), D. C. Backer (U.C. Berkeley), T. J. W. Lazio (Naval Research Laboratory), Science Working Group for the Square Kilometer Array Team

A Galactic census of pulsars with the SKA will discover most of the active pulsars in the Galaxy beamed toward us. The sheer number of pulsars discovered, along with the exceptional timing precision the SKA can provide, will revolutionize the field of pulsar astrophysics and will enable significant tests of theories of gravity. Census discoveries will almost certainly include pulsar-black hole binaries as well as pulsars orbiting the super-massive black hole in the Galactic center. These systems provide unique opportunties for probing the ultra-strong field limit of relativistic gravity and will complement future gravitational wave detections using LISA-like instruments. SKA measurements can be used to test the Cosmic Censorship Conjecture and the No-Hair theorem. The large number of millisecond pulsars discovered with the SKA will also provide a dense array of precision clocks on the sky that can be used as multiple arms of a cosmic gravitational wave detector, which can be used to detect and measure the stochastic cosmological gravitational wave background that is expected from a number of sources. In addition to gravitational tests, the large number of lines of sight will provide a detailed map of the Galaxy's electron density and magnetic fields and important information on the dynamics and evolutionary histories of neutron stars. The census will provide examples of nearly every possible outcome of the evolution of massive stars, including (as above) pulsar black-hole systems and sub-millisecond pulsars, if they exist. These objects will yield constraints on the equation of state of matter at super-nuclear densities. Masses of pulsars and their binary companions planets, white dwarfs, other neutron stars, and black holes will be determined to ~1% for hundreds of objects. The SKA will also provide partial censuses of nearby galaxies through periodicity and giant-pulse detections, yielding important information on the intergalactic medium.

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