The West Virginia University Center for Astrophysics, in conjunction with Brigham Young University, has received a $500,000 grant to build a new detector for the Green Bank Radio Telescope called a phased array feed.

The array feed will operate as an antenna, increasing the amount of sky that can be surveyed in a single snapshot image. The field of view is directly related to the observing power of a telescope. The larger the field of view, the quicker the telescope can map the sky.

“This instrument will allow us to map regions of the sky about three to five times faster than we currently can,” said D.J. Pisano, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and a member of the astrophysics team that received the grant.

“In my case, I will be using it to search for the faint, diffuse gas around galaxies in the nearby universe, work that is also supported by another grant and that I am doing with a couple of my graduate students.”

At optical wavelengths, the advent of multi-pixel detectors revolutionized astronomical science. Radio telescopes have lagged behind in pixel-count for technical reasons, but dedicated efforts have been underway for more than a decade to close some of this ground.

Faculty members at Brigham Young University are developing the hardware and software that will be used to support the telescope’s upgrades, while the National Radio Astronomy Observatory will be responsible for providing the phased array feed and integrating the software into the Green Bank Telescope operations.

WVU astrophysicists will test the software and its effectiveness.

“A big goal of this project is to help train future generations of engineers and scientists with the skills to develop this type of hardware and software for application to astronomy and other fields going forward,” Pisano said.

The rapidly growing Center for Astrophysics is housed within the Department of Physics and Astronomy at WVU and explores a wide variety of topics. Current research includes galaxy formation and evolution, star formation, pulsars and the search for gravitational waves. The center partners with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the Arecibo Observatory. Research has been supported by a West Virginia EPSCoR Research Challenge Grant, and grants from NASA, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the Research Corporation and the National Science Foundation.

For more information on the grant or the Green Bank Telescope, please contact D.J. Pisano at or by phone at 304-293-4886.



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