Green Bank Telescope Uses Cyclic Spectroscopy to Create World’s First Real-Time Ultra-Wideband Pulsar Observations
Pulsars are one of the most enigmatic celestial objects studied by astronomy. These beacons are the lighthouses of the Universe. Pulsars rotate at incredible speeds, emitting a regular clocklike signal.
The National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Telescope (GBT) is a premier tool for studying pulsars, thanks to its sensitivity at detecting these distant objects. A new $1.3 million award from the NSF will develop a powerful new system for capturing these observations in real-time, combining pulsar observations and cyclic spectroscopy in the ultra-wideband. The Green Bank Observatory is the first in the world to combine all of these aspects at once, in one robust observation processing system, in real-time.
Cyclic spectroscopy takes advantage of the periodic nature of pulsars to simultaneously achieve ultra-high resolution in both radio frequency and time, while retaining the electromagnetic phase content of the signal. For astronomers around the world, this new ultra wideband cyclic spectroscopy observing mode will allow GBT users to process up to 3.6 GHz of instantaneous bandwidth.
The GBT is one of the largest fully-steerable radio telescopes in the world. From its home in the Deer Creek Valley, in the mountains of Appalachia, scientists, engineers, and machinists are creating a host of upgrades for the GBT to support this new ultra wideband cyclic spectroscopy system. These include an expansion of the GBT’s digital backend system and software, used to collect and process observational data.