Monday, March 14, 2011

LOFAR-UK, the LOFAR Superterp and the Lovell Telescope observe pulsars together

Tom Hassell

Today we have a guest post by Tom Hassall - a PhD student at the University of Manchester. Tom is going to tell us about observations he ran of some pulsars using the LOFAR-UK station, the LOFAR core in the Netherlands, and the Lovell Telescope near Manchester. 

Tom was born in Stoke-on-Trent. He got his undergraduate degree (an Mphys Physics) at Manchester University in 2008. He continued on at Manchester to study for a PhD in Astronomy and is currently in his final year. His research has been focussed on using LOFAR to observe pulsars.

You can follow Tom on Twitter to hear more about his exploits with LOFAR. Take it away Tom: 

On Wednesday night LOFAR was used to take observations of five pulsars at three different frequencies. The LOFAR superterp was used to observe at 50 MHz, the LOFAR UK station was used in "standalone" mode to observe at 150 MHz and the Lovell was used to observe at 5 GHz. Pulsars are the dense, compact objects left over when a star dies. They rotate very quickly and whilst doing this they emit beams of light from their magnetic poles. As the pulsar rotates the beams sweep past the Earth and we observe a pulse of light for every rotation the pulsar completes, like looking at a VERY distant lighthouse!

The Lovell Telescope

The emission from pulsars is extremely regular (some pulsars are as regular as atomic clocks) so these observations are great for testing how well all of the clocks and delays within LOFAR work. We also hope to do some real science with these observations by testing how well the pulses at different frequencies line up with each other and what effect travelling through 10,000,000,000,000,000 miles of Space has on the shape of the pulses we see at different frequencies.

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