West Virginia University will soon be home to a new research program focusing on radio astronomy being spearheaded by a husband-and-wife team.
Duncan Lorimer and Maura McLaughlin, currently astronomers at Jodrell Bank Observatory at the United Kingdom’s University of Manchester will join WVU in mid-May to begin work setting up the program.
Lorimer and McLaughlin are both experts in the study of pulsars, compact stars made of neutrons that exploded years ago. These rapidly rotating stars emit pulsed signals detectable across the electromagnetic spectrum and often most easily studied at radio wave lengths.
WVU is in an ideal position to become a world leader in pulsar astronomy, especially given its proximity to the Green Bank Telescope in Pocahontas County, West Virginia,McLaughlin said.
The Green Bank Telescope is the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope and is operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, or NRAO .
It took about two years of planning and working with the head of the National Radio Astronomy Laboratory to get things moving,said Professor Earl Scime, chair of the WVU Department of Physics in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.Then last spring, the provost’s office approved a faculty position for radio astronomy. During our search, a really fantastic wife-husband team applied, and we were fortunate to be able to hire both.
McLaughlin will work throughout the summer on building a computer cluster and getting the research program off the ground.
The two plan on working with a small group of graduate students as well.
We also hope to involve undergraduate students in research projects, perhaps with hands-on trips to use the Green Bank Telescope,Lorimer said.
They also hope to hire a postdoctoral research assistant for the fall.
Both Lorimer and McLaughlin will work closely with NRAO on various projects related to pulsar astronomy, and both are looking forward to getting their program on track.
We are both very excited to start at WVU ,McLaughlin said.