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The Green Bank Telescope and the PSC
The Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC) is a joint project, between the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and West Virginia University (WVU), funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The goal of the PSC is to give high school students experience doing real research. With this experience they gain the confidence they need to succeed in STEM majors in college!
In 2007, the Green Bank Telescope was in need of repairs. Specifically, it needed a new track. While this track was being replaced, the telescope was unable to move and could only point at a fixed position in the sky. During this time, two astronomers from WVU, Dr. Maura McLaughlin and Dr. Duncan Lorimer used the Green Bank Telescope to observe the sky as it drifted overhead. And as the sky drifted by, they took data. And more data. And more data. By the end, they had over 300 hours of observing time and acquired more than 30 terabytes of data! And they want to use this data to search for new pulsars.
Sue Ann Heatherly, the Education Officer at the Green Bank Telescope, designed this project to help students use the data to search for new pulsars. In addition to Duncan and Maura, students get lots of help from WVU grad students Fernando Cardoso, Pete Gentile, Joe Swiggum (Postdoc at UWM and former WVU grad student), and other experienced PSC members from around the US!