Astronomers have confirmed high school students pulsar discovery

Astronomers have confirmed what a team of high school students from several states discovered. The students, who were participants of the NSF-funded educational outreach program, made the discovery after analyzing data taken from Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT). The discovery was about the pulsar with the widest known orbit around its companion neutron star.

Research paper lead author Joe Swiggum, a physics and astronomy graduate school student at West Virginia University in Morgan Town, said “Pulsars are some of the most extreme objects in the universe. The students’ discovery shows one of these objects in a really unique set of circumstances.” The research paper was accepted by the Astrophysical Journal

The astronomers’ codenamed the pulsar, which was discovered in 2012, PSR J1930-1852. The co-discoverers were Cecilia McGough from Strasburg High School in Virginia and De’Shang Ray from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Maryland.

Scientists are hoping that the pulsar’s extra wide orbit could help shed light on some of the mysteries around the binary neutron star system. Approximately ten percent of known pulsars are located in binary systems.  Majority of them are orbiting a companion white dwarf star.  The pulsar in question has been determined to have the most expansive orbit in comparison to the other stars sharing a similar kind of binary neutron system.

The Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC) workshop is done every summer, and students who find interest in studying survey data gathered by Green Bank Telescope (GBT) can do so for weeks, evaluating data results and looking for unusual pulsar activities.

The program, which gives actual research opportunity to students, is co-sponsored by the Pulsar Search Collaboratory, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and West Virginia University.




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