Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Pulsars north of the wall

After enduring many weeks north of the wall, the visiting observer at KAIRA has finally returned home to sunny Southampton. Over the next couple of posts, we will give a brief overview of her observations using KAIRA.

Poppy Martin, a PhD student at the University of Southampton, has spent the past 5 and a half weeks based at KAIRA running an observing campaign. Whilst here, her primary aim has been to develop a pioneering new method of observing the ionosphere - by using pulsar observations to look at the Faraday rotation that occurs in the ionosphere.

Pulsars are rapidly rotating, highly magnetised neutron stars that emit a beam of electromagnetic radiation that sweeps through the sky like a lighthouse, causing us to observe a pulse whenever it is pointed at the Earth. They were first discovered in 1967 by Jocelyn Bell and Antony Hewish, and because the pulses occurred so regularly, there was an early hypothesis that they were actually aliens trying to communicate with us. In fact, the first pulsar was actually nicknamed LGM-1 (Little Green Men-1). 


Pulsars have been observed using KAIRA before (see http://kaira.sgo.fi/2012/09/first-pulsar-observation-at-kaira.html). However we have developed this method, and can now observe up to eight pulsars simultaneously.

An example of a pulsar observation made using the HBA.
 (Image: P. Martin)


Text/image credit: P. Martin

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