High school students take control of our Parkes radio telescope, and do real science in the process, with this innovative education program.
Pulsars, the rapidly spinning remnants of stars after supernova explosions, are studied by astronomers to test the fundamental laws of physics. They have allowed us to investigate the stability of atomic clocks on Earth, and might even help us to detect the gravitational waves predicted by Albert Einstein.
Real science with PULSE@Parkes
Through the PULSE@Parkes program, high school students take control of the Parkes radio telescope to observe pulsars under the guidance of professional astronomers. Students may discover a new pulsar, identify unusual ones or detect sudden glitches in their rotation. The data collected is added to a growing database of results and is used by astronomers for ongoing research.
Get involved with PULSE@Parkes
A typical PULSE@Parkes session lasts two hours and includes a brief introductory talk and movie, the actual observing session and initial data analysis. For observations, classes are usually split into groups of 3–5 students. Each group observes a few pulsars and then starts analysing their data so that students are actively engaged throughout the session. All students have the chance to control the telescope and make their own observations.
Sessions are usually conducted by remotely controlling the telescope from the Australia Telescope National Facility headquarters in Marsfield, Sydney. A second program mode, which does not require visiting Sydney, allows students to work through online learning activities using archival data available from the Facility's website. In addition, we regularly run PULSE@Parkes observing sessions interstate and overseas.
The program is designed for students in the senior years of high school (Years 10 to 12). There is a simple application process for schools to be involved, and it is free to participate.