Honors College Thesis

Searching for Pulsars for Use in Gravitational Wave Detection

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  • Gravitational waves (GWs) are disturbances in spacetime that can be caused by events such as black hole mergers and supernovae, as well as continuous sources such as binary star systems. GWs offer a new avenue of astrophysical research and can reveal information about the early universe. GW detection can be achieved through pulsar timing observations. Since pulsars (a type of neutron star) have very consistent pulses, detecting a correlated change in pulsar signals can indicate that a GW passed through. Observing more pulsars increases the accuracy and confidence of GW detection, so it is important to find new pulsars to observe for signal changes. The goal of my project was to analyze at least 1000 new pulsar candidates to determine if a particular candidate is a pulsar by looking at a collection of plots generated from telescope data for each candidate and evaluating the plots for characteristics of a pulsar. I analysed well over 1000 candidates. Though the majority were RFI (radiofrequency interference), I found some probable and possible pulsars as well as known pulsars and harmonics of known pulsars. Potential pulsars can be further observed to confirm my analysis, and my results can also assist with machine learning to automate the pulsar search process.
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