High school students Cecilia McGough from Strasburg High School in Virginia and De’Shang Ray from Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School in Baltimore have detected a rare pulsar PSR J1930-1852.
The students made the discovery in the Pulsar Search Collaboratory summer workshop in 2012.
This workshop allows high school students to analyze the pulsar survey facts and figures which are collected by the Green Bank Telescope. The program is funded by the National Science Foundation.
Students at the workshop work for weeks and months in order to plot a unique signature that identifies as pulsar. The students who identify pulsar are invited to Green Bank to work with the astronomers and confirm their discovery.
What are pulsars? Pulsars are rapidly spinning neutron stars; it is actually super dense remains of the massive star that have exploded as supernovas.
The radio waves are emitted from the poles of the magnetic field of the spinning pulsars. When the radio wave sweeps across Earth, it is captured by the radio telescope on Earth.
Green bank Telescope or GBT is world’s largest fully steerable 100 meter telescope. The telescope is located in the National Radio Quiet Zone to protect it from unwanted radio interference and enabling it to capture rare observations.
Nearly 10 percent of the known pulsars are in binary system, where mostly they are found orbiting ancient white dwarf companion stars.
Only few orbit other neutron stars or main sequence stars like our sun.
The discovered pulsar is having orbital path of about 52 million km, this would roughly be the distance between mercury and Sun and it also orbits its companion once in every 45 days.
Joe Swiggum, graduate student in physics and astronomy at West Virginia University in Morgantown and lead author of the study said, “Its orbit is more than twice as large as that of any previously known double neutron star system. The pulsar’s parameters give us valuable clues about how a system like this could have formed. Discoveries of outlier systems like J1930-1852 give us a clearer picture of the full range of possibilities in binary evolution.”