Mentor: Professor David Nice
A pulsar is a rapidly rotating and highly magnetized neutron star that emits pulses of radiation at regular intervals. Our project is based on the collaboration with the Radio Observatory of Arecibo, Puerto Rico and it involves collecting and analyzing data on the radiation that the pulsars emit at radio frequencies. The first step is collecting the data using the observatory. This can be done either remotely either by going there. Although most of the data are taken remotely, the project involves a trip to the observatory, with the purpose of seeing and understanding how it functions. The next stage of the project is using computer programming to develop algorithms for an efficient processing of the data. We use these algorithms to process the data and to create a model of each pulsar, model that contains information about the pulsar’s position in space, rotational period, dispersion measure, and slowdown rate. The ultimate goal of our summer research is to create a database of the times that the pulses arrive at the observatory, over a period of several months. This would allow us to compare the expected arrival times of the pulses with the observed ones and adjust the predicted model of the pulsar in order to be in concordance with the empirical data. As a result, we would be able to create a more precise model of the pulsars coordinates in space, dispersion measure, rotational frequency and change of rotational frequency over time. This more accurate set of data is ultimately used for analyzing the intrinsic properties of the pulsar, such as the strength of its magnetic field or whether the pulsar forms a binary system with a companion star.