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Evening panorama view of the MWA's East Hex, after deployment. Credit: Kimberly Steele

Evening panorama view of the MWA’s East Hex, after deployment. Credit: Kimberly Steele

Pulsars are nature’s premier laboratories for advancing extreme physics, including testing strong-field gravity and probing matter at nuclear densities. Numerous surveys over the past decades have led to the discovery of over 2500 pulsars; a vast majority of them (>90%) are located at distances of a few to several kilo parsecs.  The integrated electron column density along the sight line from the Earth to the pulsar is called the dispersion measure (DM) and is a useful proxy for pulsar distance. Currently the closest pulsar known has DM = 2.4 and an inferred distance of 130 parsecs. A candidate signal at even lower DM has been detected in recent observations made with the Gauribidanur telescope, however poorly localized on sky along declination.

The densely packed matter of a pulsar spins at incredible speeds, and emits radio waves that can be observed from Earth, but how neutron stars emit these waves is still a mystery. Credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions/CAASTRO.

The densely packed matter of a pulsar spins at incredible speeds, and emits radio waves that can be observed from Earth, but how neutron stars emit these waves is still a mystery.
Credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions/CAASTRO.

The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) presents an ideal telescope for important confirmation and verification studies of this curious candidate. In this project you will undertake a systematic analysis of observational data collected with the MWA, spanning the highly elongated error box of the candidate signal. Data processing will involve forming a large number of sensitive pencil beams by reprocessing raw voltage data and searching for periodic pulsations at the expected DM. If confirmed, this will be the closest pulsar ever known, with important implications for pulsar searches with the MWA and SKA, besides serving as a powerful probe of the local interstellar medium.

Pdf Project Description and Timeline

Co-Supervisors

Dr Steven Tremblay

Postdoctoral Fellow (CAASTRO) (Formerly)

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