Technical Projects 2007
Pulsars provide the nearest thing to a physicist's dream come true. Being the end-point of stellar evolution, they are densest bodies next to black holes and give us an insight into the most extreme physical conditions of matter density, pressure and magnetic field observable by man. They also provide the most precise clocks known to humankind for undertaking unique experiments of gravitation and general relativity. Furthermore, they can be used as probes of the distribution of ionised material and magnetic field in the Galaxy with a precision which nothing else can. We use the telescopes at Jodrell Bank, Parkes (Australia) and Arecibo (Puerto Rico) in this work and frequently travel to the foreign instruments to make observations. The pulsar group at Jodrell Bank are arguably the most productive in the world in this area and have discovered more than three-quarters of the known population of these elusive and fascinating objects.
The database of the European Pulsar Network is among the most widely know resources in pulsar astronomy. With many mirror-sites existing in the world, the user interface can be greatly enhanced. The new interface should not only make the usage easier, but should also try to allow the user to pull all data on given pulsars together from various other resources. In this project, the student would design and implement a new database interface and will develop a Virtual Pulsar Observatory. The student should have a little knowledge of web-based programming (e.g. HTML) and some experience with JAVA and database structure may be useful. Students taking up this project would be doing a great service to the pulsar community at large. This project would also be an excellent introduction to pulsars and the many physical parameters one can glean from observing them. It would also be very useful as an introduction to dealing with large datasets, an increasingly common problem in all areas of astronomy.