PULsar Student Exploration online at Parkes

Control the Parkes Radio Telescope and do REAL science in REAL time to make REAL discoveries!

The Parkes radio telescope
The Parkes radio telescope.

PULSE@Parkes is an innovative project that provides high school students the opportunity to control the famous Parkes radio telescope. Students observe pulsars under the guidance of professional astronomers.

The data you obtain can be analysed to try and determine a number of properties of the pulsars, the post-supernova remnants of dead stars. Your results feed into a growing database used by professional astronomers. You may discover a new pulsar or help determine the distance to existing pulsars. You can help monitor them and identify unusual ones or detect sudden glitches in their rotation. Through participating in this project you will meet professional astronomers, learn how to control a state-of-the-art telescope, experience some real science and share your work with students from other schools.

The data you collect will also used by the astronomers for ongoing research. Astronomers from the CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (CASS) use the data to track the evolution of the pulsars over many years, to test Einstein's theory of gravity and hopefully find gravitational waves.

Latest News

  1. New Observing Slots now open. We are now accepting applications for observing sessions from April to September 2014.
  2. The updated PULSE@Parkes online module is now online. The module has been completey rewritten to be easier and more immersive to use. In this module you can access any of the observations from the program and analyse them to determine the dispersion measure for a given pulsar and hence estimate the distance to the pulsar. You only require web access and a browser to use the module.
  3. The first science paper for the PULSE@Parkes program has been published in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, PASA. You can read it on astro-ph for free.
  4. Follow us on twitter. We are now on twitter as: @PULSEatParkes. Follow us and view observing sessions live.Twitter lnk

Project Overview

The project development phase ran from late 2007 through to March 2008. The first test involving Year 10 and 11 students from Kingswood High School in Sydney took place successfully on December 4, 2007 with the second test, with Muswellbrook High School on 13 February 2008. In each case students took control of the Parkes radio telescope via the internet from ATNF Headquarters in Marsfield, Sydney and observed several pulsars. The project was officially launched by the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator the Hon Kim Carr, in Canberra on 18 December 2007.

Project learning materials and tools are being developed for everyone to access. All observational data are archived and accessible from this site. Some materials are now available but more will follow over coming months, including those that will cater for interschool collaboration on analysis of data.

Schools are now able to apply for an observing slot to use the telescope. These are usually held at CASS Headquarters at Marsfield in Sydney although we have run other sessions interstate and overseas. Observing sessions are usually two hours in length. For more details about requirements please read the Teacher FAQ page.

Pulsar profile
Pulsar profile obtained by Kingswood High School students.

Project Objectives

  • Provide a stimulating example of real science using a major national facility to engage high school students in science
  • Provide role models of scientists to students through direct interactions
  • Using the context of radio astronomy develop students' skills in science, information and communication technology problem solving and group work
  • Develop student investigations in astronomy
  • Promote the world-class astronomical research and facilities in Australia.
Pulsar profile
Students from Duncraig Senior High School controlling the Parkes radio telescope at SPICE, University of Western Australia.

PULSE@Parkes Information

PULSE@Parkes project material will be added to this site over coming weeks. At present we have the following sections available:

More Information & Contact

Please follow the links to more information and details about the project. If you wish to learn more or would like to make sure you are informed of project developments please contact:

Robert Hollow
PULSE@Parkes Coordinator
(02) 9372 4247

You can also follow the project and get updates on Facebook or follow us on twitter: @PULSEatParkes