Mason Scientists Among Research Team Surveying the Entirety of the Earth's Sky
Iulia Deneva, Research Associate Professor, is part of an international research team that is set to conduct an ambitious high time resolution survey of the entire sky visible with a telescope based in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Their goal is to discover millisecond pulsars (MSPs) to add to the NANOGrav pulsar timing array for nanohertz gravitational wave detection.
They will also work to discover exotic binary systems, intermittent pulsars, and other types of astrophysical transients.
Roughly 56 percent of the sky has already been covered with the newer Puertorican Ultimate Pulsar Processing Instrument (PUPPI) backend at Arecibo, with 87 new pulsars and transients discovered in the first pass searching the data. Ten of the new discoveries are MSPs, and four of those have already been added to the NANOGrav long-term timing program. Simulations suggest that the full survey will discover 20-30 MSPs and 150-200 normal pulsars.
Generating close to 200 terabytes of data over the next several years is an observational and organizational challenge. The researchers will manage the search processing at the Naval Research Laboratory and West Virginia University. They will process their data using periodicity and single-pulse search algorithms, and create diagnostic plots (approximately five million of them) for candidate signals. Due to the large number of candidates, the researchers will develop candidate classification tools based on state-of-the-art inductive machine learning algorithms in collaboration with computer scientists.
Deneva will receive $163,756 from the National Science Foundation for this research. Funding will begin in September 2020 and will end in late August 2023.