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Session 5 - Education.
Display session, Monday, January 13
The latest astronomy laboratory exercise from PROJECT CLEA, "Radio Astronomy of Pulsars", is designed for use in introductory astronomy classes, but contains options and features that make it usable by upperclass astronomy students as well. The heart of the exercise is a simulated radio telescope, whose aperture, location, and beamwidth can be set by the instructor. It is steered by pushing buttons, but instead of seeing a star field on the field monitor,students see a projection of the sky showing, with a colored dot,where the beam is pointing. Large LED-like readouts display time and telescope coordinates. The telescope can be operated in either a tracking or transit mode. Using the telescope, students point to several pulsars suggested by the write-up (from an on-line catalog of over 500). Students can then use a multi-channel tunable receiver, with multiple oscilloscope displays, to view the incoming signal vs. time. The signal received is a combination of random receiver and background noise plus the pulsar signal (if it is in the beam) Receivers are tunable from 400 to 1400 MHz, and both the time and frequency behavior of signals can be studied. By measuring the dispersion delay at a number of different frequencies, students can determine the pulsar's distance. Data can be stored, displayed, and printed using a versatile measuring window. Though we provide a manual for a 2-3 hour lab exercise involving dispersion measures, the database and receivers can be used for a wide variety of other exercises, for instance the measurement of pulsar spin-down rates. We welcome suggestions for improvements and applications.
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