Transient science with LOFAR at Onsala after the Chameleon pulsar discovery


The first LOFAR paper to make the pages of Science is about the bizarre pulsar PSR B0943+10, whose unexpected changes of state in both radio and X-rays are showing us that we really don’t understand pulsar magnetospheres. You can read the Science paper, or the press release at Onsala in Swedish, at ASTRON and at ESA.
The data for the paper were collected with the LOFAR core in the Netherlands, but observations of pulsars and other transient sources are already being done with the Onsala LOFAR station.


Early pulsar data with the new backend: PSR B0329+54 recorded at the Onsala LOFAR station in October 2012 (Credit: Onsala Space Observatory)

In particular, we’ve borrowed a backend developed at the University of Oxford which searches for transient signals using graphics processors of the sort you find in games consoles.
“In principle it allows us to carry out fast pulsar searches, which require significant computing to dedisperse and fold the data,” says Wouter Vlemmings, Onsala Space Observatory.
The backend can also look for other transients too, not just pulsars. This is the topic for a new masters’ project at Chalmers that has just started.
“We will be using it for transient experiments like this, and for looking for sources of interference”, says John Conway.

About Robert Cumming

Astronomer and information officer at Onsala Space Observatory. Press contact for LOFAR in Sweden.
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