Research intern helps discover a new pulsar buried in a mountain of data

A team of astronomers led by U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Remote Sensing Division intern Amaris McCarver has discovered the first millisecond pulsar in the stellar cluster Glimpse-CO1. The discovery was made possible through the use of images from the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) Low-band Ionosphere and Transient Experiment (VLITE), and the team’s new approach identified multiple candidate pulsars, with the strongest candidate residing in GLIMPSE-C01.

Millisecond pulsars are natural laboratories for studying the behavior of matter under extreme gravitational and magnetic fields. They are also highly accurate and stable, making them potential candidates for satellite navigation in space. The newly discovered millisecond pulsar, designated GLIMPSE-C01A, was confirmed through re-processing of archival data from the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope.

McCarver received the Robert S. Hyer Research Award from the Texas Section of the American Physical Society (APS) for her work. The discovery highlights the potential of VLITE data for pulsar discovery and the key role student interns play in cutting-edge research. The team’s findings were published in The Astrophysical Journal.

The presence of a millisecond pulsar in GLIMPSE-C01 has opened the door to a new era of searches for highly dispersed and accelerated pulsars. The confirmation of a new millisecond pulsar found by McCarver underscores the exciting potential for discovery with NRL’s VLITE data.

Amaris McCarver is set to graduate with a degree in Physics and Astronomy and plans to pursue her graduate education in astronomy. The discovery in GLIMPSE-C01 was made during her summer internship at NRL as part of the Science Engineering Apprenticeship Program and NREIP, Historically Black College and University/Minority Institution High Performance Computing Internship Program, and the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen Internship Program.

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