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What we look forward to in LOFAR 2.0: Searching for extreme pulsars

Published: Mon, 15/06/2020
slow pulsar

By Cees Bassa


During the 10 years since the LOFAR opening, the telescope has proven itself as an excellent instrument for the study of radio pulsars, rotating neutron stars whose radio beams act as lighthouses. LOFAR has discovered over 80 new pulsars, from the slowest spinning pulsar, rotating once every 23.5 seconds, to one of the fastest, rotating 707 times each second.

Thanks to the exquicite depth of the LOFAR imaging survey, searching for new and more extreme pulsars will enter a new era, where instead of blindly searching for periodic signals, pulsar candidates can be identified from point sources with (ultra-) steep radio spectra and/or high degrees of linear or circular polarization. These new pulsars, as well as previously known pulsars will allow radio astronomers to map the electron density and the topology of the Galactic magnetic field, use the Solar wind for space weather forecasts, study the emission properties of pulsars and probe the physics of ultra-dense matter.

slow pulsar

LOFAR discovered the slowest spinning pulsar, rotating once every 23.5 seconds. The black line shows the average radio pulse, where the pulsar is only visible for a fraction of each rotation. The rotation is slow enough that the pulsed emission can be seen in LOFAR images. (copyright: ASTRON)