Radio polarisation properties of neutron stars

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy


The defining characteristic of radio pulsars is their periodic pulses which can be detected by radio telescopes. The stars that generate these radio pulses are neutron stars, super dense stars with a mass of ~1.5 solar masses and a radius of only ~10 km. Radio pulsars accelerate particles to relativistic speeds which then move along the field lines of their extremely strong magnetic fields. As the beam of radio emission that these particles generates sweeps across the Earth (like a "light house") we expect it to describe a specific change in polarisation which can tell us details of the geometry of the pulsar, including the location of its rotation and magnetic axes, however it turns out to be more complicated than this and is giving us a glimpse of the electrodynamics of the emission process itself. In this project you will investigate the polarization properties of pulsars. You will start with data from the Lovell radio telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory, making full use of its new polarization capability. This will be supplemented with data from the Parkes telescope in Australia and LOFAR, a large next generation array of radio telescopes operating at very low frequencies. This project involves data analysis and building a computer model describing the physics of the pulsar magnetosphere, which will include various relativistic effects. The model will be used to provide a self-consistent picture which can describe your data, for which the currently oversimplified "standard" model fails.


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Ilie C (2018) Organised polarisation variability in radio pulsars and consequences for emission theory in Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union

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Ilie C (2019) Evidence for magnetospheric effects on the radiation of radio pulsars in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ST/N504178/1 30/09/2015 30/03/2021
1662635 Studentship ST/N504178/1 20/09/2015 31/03/2019 Cristina Ilie
Description PATT Travel Grant
Amount £900 (GBP)
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2017 
End 11/2017
Description Build a Pulsar Workshop - Engagement Activity - Bluedot Fetsival, Jodrell Bank Centre of Astrophysics 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact During this festival I helped with the stand from Jodrell Bank Centre of Astrophysics, namely the Build a Pulsar Stand (a workshop where people had a chance to build their own pulsar to take away). This stand was mostly popular with children. More than 500 people attended the workshop in the 3 days of the festival and children loved this interactive way to learn about space.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Presenter/Show/Interview Editor for an astronomy podcast, The Jodcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Volunteered to present and edit for an astronomy podcast based at the University of Manchester.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016
Description Talk at PubHD, Manchester 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presented my research to about 30 people in a friendly casual environment to an audience of non-experts, which sparked a very interesting discussion afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016