Astronomers over the Moon about Apertif
The ability to simultaneously detect radio signals of two widely separated pulsars ushers in a new era in radio astronomy.
November 22, 2010
Astronomers at ASTRON have, by simultaneously detecting the radio signals of two widely separated pulsars, demonstrated the feasibility of new receiver technology that will have a great impact on radio astronomy. This achievement is part of the development of a new wide-field radio camera, Apertif, for the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT). The new result signals the coming of a new era in radio astronomy. The demonstration of simultaneous Apertif pulsar observations is very exciting. "The possibility of simultaneous observations of more than one pulsar opens up completely new ways for pulsar research,” said Joeri van Leeuwen from ASTRON. “Pulsars are among the most extreme and interesting objects in the sky, and the new radio camera will lead to the discovery of many hundreds of new pulsars."
The picture illustrates the new capabilities of Apertif. The circles show the location on the sky of the two pulsars detected simultaneously, separated from each other by about seven times the diameter of the full Moon. The Moon indicates the field of view of the old WSRT: it can detect sources only if they are closer to each other than a distance similar to the apparent size of the full Moon. The inset on the left shows the average time profile of the pulsars detected. Illustration: ASTRON
"With the new wide-field camera, the WSRT will be more than 30 times faster in surveying the sky,” said Tom Oosterloo, also from ASTRON. “Observations that would take a month with the old WSRT can now be completed in a single day. This increase in observing speed will no doubt lead to many exciting discoveries, not only of pulsars, but also of galaxies, transient sources, and potentially new, as yet undiscovered, cosmic phenomena."
Many astronomers have recognized the scientific potential of Apertif and are interested in getting their share of the action. Astronomers from around the world will descend on Dwingeloo on November 22 and 23 in order to discuss the full range of scientific opportunities Apertif will enable. "There has been an overwhelming response to our call for expressions of interest in Apertif,” said Rene Vermeulen from ASTRON, “and it is clear that the WSRT-Apertif combination will have an extremely busy calendar."