Mentor: Dr. David Nice
When a star more massive then our Sun nears the end of its life, it collapses into a very small and dense object, known as a neutron star. Due to conservation of angular momentum this neutron star will have a much greater rotation rate then the original star. Sometimes neutron stars emit beams of radio waves, which we detect as pulses due to the rapid rotation of the neutron star. This effect is similar to that of a lighthouse beam crossing our line of sight. This is why we call them pulsars.
We will use the Arecibo Observatory to look at 35 recently discovered radio pulsars within our Galaxy with periods ranging from milliseconds to seconds. Our research involves measuring the pulse intensity of these pulsars and looking for patterns and consistencies in these measurements on day-to-day and pulse-to-pulse time scales over a range of frequencies. The pulsar signal is a small fraction of the overall energy gathered by the telescope. (Other astronomical sources, as well as the amplifiers in the telescope, contribute to a large background noise.) Thus, measuring pulsar intensities is a challenging process. Although pulsars have been studied for many years, little is known about the process of their radio wave emission. Our measurements will help in the general understanding of the pulsar population, life cycle, emission mechanisms, and place in our Galaxy.