Blog 7 – The Final Week

As we wrap up our final few days at the Education Centre, its time to tidy up and document everything we’ve done over the last 12 weeks.

Over the summer months we have talked to almost 2000 people from all over the world. Daily tours, weekly space workshops and the IAU 100 exhibit introduced the science and technology of I-LOFAR, and the history of astronomy in Birr and across Ireland, to all of those visitors. Posters and exhibit pieces are being prepared for display in the Centre in the coming days.

In the last few weeks Jane and I have also been busy analysing data from observations using I-LOFAR. (Thanks to Joe McCauley making the observations, as they were very tricky!) Both of us observed pulsars, they are rapidly rotating neutron stars that emit radio waves as jets from their magnetic poles. If these jets are oriented towards Earth correctly, the beam acts like a lighthouse, creating a ‘blip’ in our data. The rotation rates of these stars can therefore be measured very accurately. Pulsars were discovered in 1967 by Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell. Today pulsar research is done right here at I-LOFAR! The pulsars chosen were already discovered, as we wanted to learn how to analyse the data on the new REALTA software installed in the Control Room in 2018. REALTA (Real Time Transient Acquisition Cluster) increased I-LOFAR’s time resolution capabilities, bringing it down to the millisecond region. This means observations of fast rotating pulsars can now be performed.

I observed pulsars B0809+74 and B2217+47. Pulsar B0809 has a 1.29424 second period, while B2217 rotates every 0.53847 seconds. The best data came from B0809, where the pulses could easily be detected from the background noise. The resulting plots are below, the one in the top left corner shows the pulse profile.

Plot of Pulsar B0809+74

Jane observed pulsar J105+5531 which has a period of 0.73968 seconds.  This pulsar was also bright in radio and easy to detect, the resulting plots are below. All of our observations were made for ten minutes, plenty of time to detect the pulsars.

Pulsar J1509+5531 Plot

Observing with LOFAR was an excellent opportunity and being able to detect pulsars was very exciting! Jane and I gave 40 tours each over the summer, improving our confidence and public speaking skills, as well as our knowledge of the Leviathan, LOFAR and radio astronomy. We would like to sincerely thank Professor Peter Gallagher and Áine Flood for giving us the amazing opportunity to intern at the I-LOFAR Education Centre for the summer.



Blog post written by Jeremy Rigney.