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Project area/S

  • Fast transients and pulsars

Project Details

Cosmic rays are the highest-energy particles in nature. Mostly protons, they reach energies more than a million times higher than that  achieved at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Produced by something in the universe, when a cosmic ray hits the top of the atmosphere, it generates a huge ‘extensive air shower’ (EAS) of secondary particles, some of which reach ground level. This gives off a burst of radio-waves lasting less than a microsecond, allowing radio telescopes operating at the highest time resolution to study these rare particles. The Murchison Widefield Array in outback Western Australia aims to detect these bursts of radio-wave radiation.

We have managed to process MWA data to search for nanosecond-duration radio transients at the MWA. For every cosmic ray, we detect thousands of (presumably) radio-frequency interference (RFI)  events, with durations too short to be noticed in other observations. These are both intrinsically interesting – MWA should be as RFI free as possible! – and also can be used as free calibration signals to ensure that the telescope is working as expected. This open-ended project will challenge a student to find out as much as possible about this RFI, and use it to work out how to align data streams at the telescope to within a few nanoseconds.

Student Attributes

Academic Background

None other than a curiosity to understand interesting things.

Computing Skills

Python will be used, but this can be learned during the project.

Training Requirement

Latex, scripting, and HPC would be beneficial.

Project Timeline

  • Week 1 Inductions and project introduction
  • Week 2 Initial Presentation
  • Week 3 Understanding MWA data/python: first look
  • Week 4 Develop RFI reconstruction methods part 1
  • Week 5 Develop RFI reconstruction methods part 2
  • Week 6 Investigation of RFI origin – what is it?
  • Week 7 Database of all RFI candidates: near and far-field
  • Week 8 Conclusions on MWA timing accuracy
  • Week 9 Final Presentation
  • Week 10 Final Report


Professor Steven Tingay

Deputy Executive Director

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