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In August 2017 a new radio telescope, the Ghana Radio Astronomy Observatory (GRAO), was officially inaugurated at Kuntunse, Ghana. The GRAO is a former satellite Earth station and now the first operational station in the African VLBI Network (AVN). The Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (JBCA), supported by the UK’s STFC/Newton Fund, has developed a new pulsar timing system (Hebe) for the GRAO. We present some aspects of the design of Hebe and an outline of the first pulsar detection at GRAO.
Phased Array Feed (PAF) technology is the next major advancement in radio astronomy in terms of combining high sensitivity and large field of view. The Focal L-band Array for the Green Bank Telescope (FLAG) is one of the most sensitive PAFs developed so far. It consists of 19 dual-polarization elements mounted on a prime focus dewar resulting in seven beams on the sky. Its unprecedented system temperature of ~17 K will lead to a 3 fold increase in pulsar survey speeds as compared to contemporary single pixel feeds. Early science observations were conducted in a recently concluded commissioning phase of the FLAG where we clearly demonstrated its science capabilities. We observed a selection of normal and millisecond pulsars and detected giant pulses from PSR B1937+21.
The majority of fast radio bursts (FRBs) are poorly localised, hindering their potential scientific yield as galactic, intergalactic, and cosmological probes. LOFT-e, a digital backend for the U.K.’s e-MERLIN seven-telescope interferometer will provide commensal search and real-time detection of FRBs, taking full advantage of its field of view (FoV), sensitivity, and observation time. Upon burst detection, LOFT-e will store raw data offline, enabling the sub-arcsecond localisation provided by e-MERLIN and expanding the pool of localised FRBs. The high-time resolution backend will additionally introduce pulsar observing capabilities to e-MERLIN.
Transitional millisecond pulsars (tMSPs), which are systems that harbor a pulsar in the throes of the recycling process, have emerged as a new source class since the discovery of the first such system a decade ago. These systems switch between accretion-powered low-mass X-ray binary (LMXB) and rotation-powered radio millisecond pulsar (RMSP) states, and provide exciting avenues to understand the physical processes that spin-up neutron stars to millisecond periods. During the last decade, three tMSPs, as well as a candidate source, have been extensively probed using systematic, multi-wavelength campaigns. Here we review the observational highlights from these campaigns and our general understanding of tMSPs.
We have used LOFAR to perform targeted millisecond pulsar surveys of Fermi γ-ray sources. Operating at a center frequency of 135 MHz, the surveys use a novel semi-coherent dedispersion approach where coherently dedispersed trials at coarsely separated dispersion measures are incoherently dedispersed at finer steps. Three millisecond pulsars have been discovered as part of these surveys. We describe the LOFAR surveys and the properties of the newly discovered pulsars.
The millisecond pulsar PSR J0337+1715 is in a mildly relativistic hierarchical triple system with two white dwarfs. This offers the possibility of testing the universality of free fall: does the neutron star fall with the same acceleration as the inner white dwarf in the gravity of the outer white dwarf? We have carried out an intensive pulsar timing campaign, yielding some 27000 pulse time-of-arrival (TOA) measurements with a median uncertainty of 1.2 μs. Here we describe our analysis procedure and timing model.
PSR J0337+1715 is a millisecond radio pulsar in a hierarchical stellar triple system with two white dwarfs. This system is a unique and excellent laboratory in which to test the strong equivalence principle (SEP) of general relativity. An initial SEP-violation test was performed using direct 3-body numerical integration of the orbit in order to model the more than 25000 pulse times of arrival (TOAs) from three radio telescopes: Arecibo, Green Bank and Westerbork. In this work I present our efforts to quantify the effects of systematics in the TOAs and timing residuals, which limit the precision of an SEP test. In particular, we apply Fourier-based techniques to the timing residuals in order to isolate the effects of systematics that can masquerade as an SEP violation.
The class of radio transients called Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) encompasses enigmatic single pulses, each unique in its own way, hindering a consensus for their origin. The key to demystifying FRBs lies in discovering many of them in order to identity commonalities – and in real time, in order to find potential counterparts at other wavelengths. The recently upgraded UTMOST in Australia, is undergoing a backend transformation to rise as a fast transient detection machine. The first interferometric detections of FRBs with UTMOST, place their origin beyond the near-field region of the telescope thus ruling out local sources of interference as a possible origin. We have localised these bursts to much better than the ones discovered at the Parkes radio telescope and have plans to upgrade UTMOST to be capable of much better localisation still.
The Square Kilometre Array will be an amazing instrument for pulsar astronomy. While the full SKA will be sensitive enough to detect all pulsars in the Galaxy visible from Earth, already with SKA1, pulsar searches will discover enough pulsars to increase the currently known population by a factor of four, no doubt including a range of amazing unknown sources. Real time processing is needed to deal with the 60 PB of pulsar search data collected per day, using a signal processing pipeline required to perform more than 10 POps. Here we present the suggested design of the pulsar search engine for the SKA and discuss challenges and solutions to the pulsar search venture.
An evolution of the low-frequency pulse profile of PSR B2217+47 is observed during a six-year observing campaign with the LOFAR telescope at 150 MHz. The evolution is manifested as a new component in the profile trailing the main peak. The leading part of the profile, including a newly-observed weak component, is steady during the campaign. The transient component is not visible in simultaneous observations at 1500 MHz using the Lovell telescope, implying a chromatic effect. A variation in the dispersion measure of the source is detected in the same timespan. Precession of the pulsar and changes in the magnetosphere are investigated to explain the profile evolution. However, the listed properties favour a model based on turbulence in the interstellar medium (ISM). This interpretation is confirmed by a strong correlation between the intensity of the transient component and main peak in single pulses. Since PSR B2217+47 is the fourth brightest pulsar visible to LOFAR, we speculate that ISM-induced pulse profile evolution might be relatively common but subtle and that SKA-Low will detect many similar examples. In this scenario, similar studies of pulse profile evolution could be used in parallel with scintillation arcs to characterize the properties of the ISM.
Phased VLA observations of the Galactic center magnetar J1745-2900 over 8-12 GHz reveal rich single pulse behavior. The average profile is comprised of several distinct components and is fairly stable over day timescales and GHz frequencies. The average profile is dominated by the jitter of relatively narrow pulses. The pulses in each of the four profile components are uncorrelated in phase and amplitude, although the occurrence of pulse components 1 and 2 appear to be correlated. Using a collection of the brightest individual pulses, we verify that the index of the dispersion law is consistent with the expected cold plasma value of 2. The scattering time is weakly constrained, but consistent with previous measurements, while the dispersion measure DM = 1763+3−10 pc cm−3 is lower than previous measurements, which could be a result of time variability in the line-of-sight column density or changing pulse profile shape over time or frequency.
In-spiraling supermassive black holes should emit gravitational waves, which would produce characteristic distortions in the time of arrival residuals from millisecond pulsars. Multiple national and regional consortia have constructed pulsar timing arrays by precise timing of different sets of millisecond pulsars. An essential aspect of precision timing is the transfer of the times of arrival to a (quasi-)inertial frame, conventionally the solar system barycenter. The barycenter is determined from the knowledge of the planetary masses and orbits, which has been refined over the past 50 years by multiple spacecraft. Within the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav), uncertainties on the solar system barycenter are emerging as an important element of the NANOGrav noise budget. We describe what is known about the solar system barycenter, touch upon how uncertainties in it affect gravitational wave studies with pulsar timing arrays, and consider future trends in spacecraft navigation.
Cognitive deficits in schizophrenia have major functional impacts. Modafinil is a cognitive enhancer whose effect in healthy volunteers is well-described, but whose effects on the cognitive deficits of schizophrenia appear to be inconsistent. Two possible reasons for this are that cognitive test batteries vary in their sensitivity, or that the phase of illness may be important, with patients early in their illness responding better.
A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled single-dose crossover study of modafinil 200 mg examined this with two cognitive batteries [MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery (MCCB) and Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB)] in 46 participants with under 3 years’ duration of DSM-IV schizophrenia, on stable antipsychotic medication. In parallel, the same design was used in 28 age-, sex-, and education-matched healthy volunteers. Uncorrected p values were calculated using mixed effects models.
In patients, modafinil significantly improved CANTAB Paired Associate Learning, non-significantly improved efficiency and significantly slowed performance of the CANTAB Stockings of Cambridge spatial planning task. There was no significant effect on any MCCB domain. In healthy volunteers, modafinil significantly increased CANTAB Rapid Visual Processing, Intra-Extra Dimensional Set Shifting and verbal recall accuracy, and MCCB social cognition performance. The only significant differences between groups were in MCCB visual learning.
As in earlier chronic schizophrenia studies, modafinil failed to produce changes in cognition in early psychosis as measured by MCCB. CANTAB proved more sensitive to the effects of modafinil in participants with early schizophrenia and in healthy volunteers. This confirms the importance of selecting the appropriate test battery in treatment studies of cognition in schizophrenia.
White matter (WM) impairments have been reported in patients with bipolar disorder (BD) and those at high familial risk of developing BD. However, the distribution of these impairments has not been well characterized. Few studies have examined WM integrity in young people early in the course of illness and in individuals at familial risk who have not yet passed the peak age of onset.
WM integrity was examined in 63 BD subjects, 150 high-risk (HR) individuals and 111 participants with no family history of mental illness (CON). All subjects were aged 12 to 30 years.
This young BD group had significantly lower fractional anisotropy within the genu of the corpus callosum (CC) compared with the CON and HR groups. Moreover, the abnormality in the genu of the CC was also present in HR participants with recurrent major depressive disorder (MDD) (n = 16) compared with CON participants.
Our findings provide important validation of interhemispheric abnormalities in BD patients. The novel finding in HR subjects with recurrent MDD – a group at particular risk of future hypo/manic episodes – suggests that this may potentially represent a trait marker for BD, though this will need to be confirmed in longitudinal follow-up studies.
Growth of GaN on Si(111) and Ge coated Si(111) using pulsed electron beam deposition (PED) process is reported. GaN was deposited on Si(111) and Ge/Si(111) at 600°C in an N2 environment without any surface pre-treatment such as pre-nitridation. X-ray diffraction confirmed that c-plane oriented GaN was grown. Photoluminescence showed near-band-edge emission, the intensity of which was improved with hydrogen passivation. Electrical characterization showed n-type conductivity with room temperature electron mobilities in the range of 300 cm2/V-sec.