CASS Undergraduate Vacation Projects 2012
The following projects are available for the 2012 CASS Undergraduate Vacation Scholarship Program.
Project 1: Space Junk, Satellites and the SKA
Description: Plans are underway to design and build the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array. The SKA will be so sensitive, it will detect weak radio signals from galaxies billions of light years away. The SKA will also be capable of detecting an airport radar on a planet up to 50 light years away - providing our first real (but small) chance of finding intelligent life on other planets.
With newly-built radio telescopes we can already detect the signals from earth-based television transmitters reflected from the surface of the moon. The extremely high sensitivity of the Square Kilometre Array will enable it to detect not only deliberate radio transmissions from satellites and aeroplanes but also reflected terrestrial radio signals from space junk and possibly near-earth asteroids. The problem this poses to astronomers is that it produces a noisy 'foreground' signal that can drown out the background objects of interest.
In this project you will investigate and characterise the likely signal that will be detected by the Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope and the SKA from satellites, aeroplanes and from the reflection of terrestrial radio sources off space junk and near-earth objects. Your work will be an important input into the planning of large-scale astronomical projects that will survey the sky for 'transient' radio sources, astronomical sources which change with time. This project offers you the chance to make a real and novel contribution to the Square Kilometre Array project.
Project 2: Digitising Galaxies
Description: The world is a much noisier place in the radio than it once was. Satellites, radio broadcasts, television networks and other mainstays of modern life have created a radio background that severely hinders radio observations at some frequencies. Fortunately, radio observations have been made at these frequencies in the past, when the radio background was much quieter. Unfortunately, not all of this data is in an easy to use format. Sometimes the data can only be found in publications as contour plots and grey-scale images. In this project a student will develop an application that can extract information from images in a digital publication, and then create an image in a format useful for analysis by the astronomical community (.fits format). The key goal of this project is extraction of contour maps from digital publications. This will allow us to digitise images of the radio galaxy Centaurus A, which contains the nearest extragalactic supermassive black hole, and whose full extent covers an area equivalent to 200 full moons on the sky. This project is ideal for students looking to further develop their programming skills and acquire familiarity with astronomical datasets.
Requirements: The student must have a basic knowledge of computer programming. Familiarity with C/C++ is beneficial but not essential.
Project 3: Searching for Gravitational Waves
Description: The main goal of the Parkes Pulsar Timing Array (PPTA) project is to make the first direct detection of gravitational waves. †Such a result would allow us to study supermassive, binary black holes as well as confirming a prediction of the general theory of relativity. †In order to achieve this goal the PPTA project has been observing 20 pulsars with phenomenal timing precision for the last 6 years. †Unfortunately, no detection of gravitational waves has been made as our data sets are too short. †However, many of the pulsars were observed at the Parkes radio telescope for the last 15 or so years for different projects. †The aim of this student work is to access those earlier data, process them using state-of-the-art algorithms and then include them in the data sets used to search for the gravitational waves.
Project 4: Organic molecules in interstellar clouds: a key to understanding the formation of stars
Description: Despite the commonly perceived emptiness of space, many complex organic molecules are known to exist within the interstellar medium, with a complex chemistry required for their formation. Observations and analysis of these molecules can provide incredible insight into the early processes of the formation of stars. This project will examine observations of two complex molecules, taken towards hot molecular cores, the very earliest stages of star formation. The project utilises data from the 34-m and 70-m radio telescopes at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, part of NASA's Deep Space Network, located at Tidbinbilla on the outskirts of Canberra, and part of CSIRO's Astronomy and Space Science division.
Project 5: Probing induced star formation with masers
Description: A birth of a high-mass star is a violent process which has a significant impact on the environment of the gas clouds where such stars are formed. Often, the formation of the second generation stars can be triggered. Such regions are usually rich in molecular emission and, more specifically, masers which are bright and intense spectral lines. The masers are good tracers of kinematics and morphology of shocks. In addition, different maser species are believed to appear at different age. The goal of this project is to investigate kinematics and morphology of one selected star-forming region using the data from the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) in an attempt to reveal the signatures of induced star formation.
Project 6: Building a better model of the interstellar plasma
Description: Pulsars, rotating neutron stars, provide a unique probe of the interstellar plasma that fills our Galaxy. This ionised gas traces the transfer of energy between massive stars and the formation of future stars. The vacation scholar will work with the latest computer simulations and observations from worldwide radio telescopes -- including the Parkes Telescope -- to build a new picture of these dynamic processes in the Galaxy. The results will test how accurately simulations in which many supernovae produce a model interstellar plasma describe the real Galaxy.
Project 7: Making the first sky map with an Australian SKA Pathfinder Phased Array Feed
Description: Phased Array Feed (PAF) technology is an exciting new development in radio astronomy that provides the key to obtaining images over a large field of view in a single snapshot, much like the CCD in optical astronomy. This project involves conducting a 0.7 - 1.8 GHz, low resolution, †all-sky single-dish survey with a prototype 12m antenna at the Parkes radio observatory, the first such attempt with an ASKAP-style PAF. The all-sky mapping will be repeated several times to search for unusual time-dependant signals caused by rare and powerful astrophysical events. The project is a unique opportunity for students to work with the ASKAP commissioning team and gain valuable experience with cutting-edge technology. After an initial visit to the observatory for training, the observations will be conducted from Sydney, via a network link to the telescope. Activities and tasks would suit students interested in the practical details of observational astronomy.
Project 8: HI in early type galaxies; looking for the disk-Halo interactions
Description: In recent years it has become clear that in spiral galaxies there is constant interaction between the neutral hydrogen gas in the disk and the halo of spiral galaxies. In order to investigate these interactions in a completely new environment we have proposed extremely deep HI observations (+200 hrs) of the Early Type Galaxy ESO 92-G21 with the Compact Array. †This S0 galaxy is known to have a large undisturbed regularly rotating disk in HI (Oosterloo et al. 2007) but is not completely devoid of star formation (Helmboldt et al. 2005), one would therefore expect to find low quantities of HI at anomalous velocities in the halo. The student would be required to reduce, part of , +200 hrs ATCA observations of the galaxy ESO092-G021 over the summer. After the reduction a simple analysis, in which a rotation curve should be obtained and the low emission gas in the halo will be identified, should follow. This analysis will lead instantaneously to a publishable result in the form of a short letter, regardless of whether halo gas is found or not.
Project 9: Presentation and School group program development for Astronomy Outreach
Discipline: Outreach: Science Communication & Education
Location: Parkes Observatory
Description: Working at the Visitors Centre at the Parkes radio telescope in the Central West of NSW you will tackle two aspects in this project. The first is to develop an informative and engaging presentation on astronomy for the public visiting the observatory. You will then present this during the holiday season at the Visitors Centre and interact with the public. The second task is to develop an educational program for school groups visiting the CSIRO Parkes radio telescope. This program will target primary aged school students. This project is ideally suited to someone studying science education or communication, preferably with an interest in astronomy. Experience in public speaking or presenting and knowledge or experience in science program development is required. Knowledge of Astronomy advantageous but not essential. The successful applicant must be available to work over the Christmas period at Parkes.
Project 10: Implementation of an ASKAP module on an Altera device using the Altera tool flow
Description: Information to follow.
Project 11: Measurement of transistor Noise Parameters at cryogenic temperatures - a challenging problem
Discipline: Electical Engineering
Description: Low-noise amplifiers are a critical component of radiotelescopes like the Square Kilometre Array. Their design requires an accurate knowledge of the behaviour of the active devices – characterised by the S-parameters and noise parameters, however, measurement of the noise parameters of modern, extremely low noise transistors is notoriously difficult. Operation at cryogenic temperatures and low frequencies greatly exacerbates the difficulties so that ad-hoc predictions based on higher frequency room-temperature measurements are often used.
The aim of this project is to develop new techniques for measuring S-parameters and noise parameters and to use these techniques to characterise some state-of-the-art devices at cryogenic temperatures. This project will entail a wide range of tasks – starting with the development of a mathematical formalism, through the development of a robust measurement setup and ultimately leading to device characterisation and the design of state-of-the-art low-noise amplifier circuits.
Other projects may also be offered in the areas of engineering and operations.
Note: CASS reserves the right to not proceed with on offer of a placement on any specific project.
- Undergraduate Vacation Scholarship Program Details
- To apply see job number NSW12/02331 in the Positions Vacant section at www.csiro.au/careers.