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Gravitational-wave astronomy is revolutionizing the way we look at the Universe. Because they can be produced in places either invisible or hidden from conventional (electromagnetic) observations, gravitational waves are invaluable probes of the astrophysics of the most extreme environments. One potential way to search for gravitational waves is through observations of ultra-stable millisecond pulsars, rapidly rotating neutron stars that beam radio emission out of their magnetic poles. The most likely source of these long-wavelength gravitational waves is from binary supermassive black hole binaries: orbiting pairs of the most massive black holes in the Universe, embedded in the centre of the largest galaxies that have so far eluded both electromagnetic and gravitational-wave detection.

As part of this project, you will join the Parkes Pulsar Timing Array (PPTA) collaboration, which leads the world in nanohertz-frequency gravitational wave science. Your contributions will lead to improved methods for observing pulsars and searching for gravitational waves and accelerating nanohertz-frequency gravitational wave detection. Your contributions to the PPTA project could include:

  • Commissioning new instruments and developing wide band pulsar-timing methods for use at the Parkes Radio Telescope and the Murchison Widefield Array.
  • Producing the most sensitive data sets for nanohertz-frequency gravitational waves.
  • Searching for gravitational waves in PPTA and International data sets.
  • Developing strategies for incorporating new telescopes (such as FAST and meerKAT) into pulsar timing arrays.

The Parkes Telescope

Specific contributions will depend on your interests. Through this project you will gain experience with computation and signal processing while doing cutting-edge astrophysics. You will gain experience working in a large group and collaborate with a global network of astronomers working with the world’s largest radio telescopes.