Super-telescope LOFAR finds two new pulsars

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - 11:53

Washington: The radio telescope LOFAR has found two new pulsars - fast-spinning neutron stars, which are remnants of massive supernova explosions.

Two of these weak but quickly flashing radio sources were spotted for the first time during the `warm-up` for the LOFAR all-sky survey.

The International LOFAR Telescope (ILT), designed and built by ASTRON, is a radio telescope centered in the Netherlands and spread across Europe. The telescope consists of a network of thousands of individual dipole antennas, connected over a fast network to a central supercomputer.

The high sensitivity of this software telescope means it is extraordinarily suited for pulsar research.

The international team of astronomers looking for new pulsars with LOFAR is led by Jason Hessels, from ASTRON and the University of Amsterdam, and Ben Stappers, from the University Manchester.

The discovery highlighted by Coenen`s PhD research showcases the pulsar capabilities of LOFAR, and hints at new possibilities with its successor, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

Hessels said that the SKA will take LOFAR technology one step further, and these discoveries show they can expect to detect a large fraction of the pulsars in their galaxy with SKA.

Using computing resources provided by the European Grid Infrastructure, Coenen and the team needed only a month to search through a set of 2010-2013 LOFAR images that would have occupied a single computer for more than a century.

First Published: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - 11:53

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