Students to tweet telescope takeover
This is the first time the social networking site has been used to report their findings and already they have attracted international interest with NASA scientists signing up to watch their efforts.
The students will drive the telescope from the Victorian Space Science Education (VSSEC) in Melbourne and use it to make real observations of the small spinning stars called pulsars.
Scientists who use NASA’s Fermi space telescope to study pulsars work collaboratively with researchers using the Parkes telescope.
They are interested in what the students from Footscray City Secondary College, Braemar College and Strathmore Secondary College will find and have signed up for the Twitter updates.
The session is part of an ongoing program called ‘PULSE@Parkes’ that is giving students around the country the chance to do real science with a large, professional, radio telescope.
The program is an initiative of CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF), which operates Parkes and other radio telescopes in NSW.
CSIRO plans to build on the experience of PULSE@Parkes to develop remote-observing education programs for the Australian Square Kilometre Pathfinder, ASKAP, which CSIRO is now developing for operation in Western Australia.
ASKAP, as well as being a world-leading telescope in its own right, will be an important test-bed for the future Square Kilometre Array (SKA), an international radio telescope that will be the world’s largest and most powerful.
CSIRO SKA Director Professor Brian Boyle said the education program will be extended to ASKAP and later to the SKA.
“PULSE@Parkes is an inspiring program,” Professor Boyle said.
“We are putting frontline astronomical research straight into the hands of the young people who are going to be the ones using the SKA.”
ATNF Education Officer and PULSE@Parkes coordinator Mr Rob Hollow said that there are plans to start getting pulsar data from a second, smaller dish at Parkes that has been built to test equipment for ASKAP.
“From there we’ll be looking to make other kinds of observations, such as studying the hydrogen gas in space that is the raw material for forming stars,” Mr Hollow said.
PULSE@Parkes began in late 2007 and more than 20 sessions have now been run. Over 250 students have had the chance to observe directly with the Parkes telescope as a result of the program.
“We are delighted to be taking part in such an innovative program, which is in line with VSSEC’s own aims,” VSSEC Director Michael Pakakis said.
Up to 24 students can take part in an observing session.
Some days before the session they receive an introduction to radio astronomy, pulsars, and the nuts and bolts of observing.
During the actual session they talk to an astronomer present at Parkes via videolink and take full control of the telescope.
The students take real data and analyse it to determine, for instance, the distance of the pulsars they observe.
- Download images at: Students to tweet telescope takeover
- To follow the students on Twitter follow PULSEatParkes.