Radio Phoenix: Our research and the 235th American Astronomical Society Meeting

By: Ha-Eun Choi ‘21

Our club, known as Radio Phoenix, is a part of the Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC) from West Virginia University, which is made up of high school students and teachers from across the US. We grade data sent to us by the PSC from the Green Bank Telescope in the search for new pulsars, which are spinning, EMR-emitting, highly magnetized neutron stars. As a team, we have graded over 1,000 datasets, each containing 34 plots. Each plot is labeled as either RFI (radio frequency interference), noise, a known pulsar, or a possibly new pulsar.

Being a part of the PSC is what allowed us (Sofia Diaz, Elisabeth Forsyth, Alexandra Wang, Harper Will, Ha-Eun Choi, and Deb Skapik) to go on a week-long trip to Hawaii. Our main purpose for going on this trip was to attend and present at the 235th American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting, which had a little over 3.5 thousand attendees. We spent the school year leading up to the meeting researching millisecond pulsars with binary companions specifically through infrared photometry. In other words, we researched pulsars with very fast spin periods with images taken at various wavelengths, especially infrared. Also, we were motivated to research this topic through our interest in gravitational waves because as more of this type of pulsars are found, the more the sensitivity to gravitational waves increases. All of our work led up to our poster presentation, explaining our research and results at the AAS meeting. There, we also met up with other PSC members, attended various plenary lectures from distinguished scientists, went around a convention room with people from different telescopes, different observatories, NASA, etc., and more. Additionally, we even arrived in Hawaii a few days prior to the AAS meeting. During this time we visited Maui and got to go up the volcano Haleakala!

Overall our trip to Hawaii was an absolutely incredible experience. Radio Phoenix gave us the opportunity to do real research as high school students and allowed us to partake in the experience of a lifetime.