LI Di and George HOBBS

Astronomers

About This Project

Di Li: I took up my current job at the National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC) in 2012, first as Project Scientist, and later as the Deputy Chief Engineer of China’s new Five hundred metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST).

 

One of the gaps in my training was pulsar sciences, particularly gravitational wave detection through pulsar timing arrays. The famous and extremely productive Parkes telescope, operated by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia, has discovered more than half of all known pulsars in the world.

 

I immediately sought help from, and opportunities to collaborate with, CSIRO experts. With their help, we established a young and driven pulsar group for the FAST project in China.

 

This year, our collaboration has started to bear fruit. In October 2017, the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced the first results from FAST. Six new pulsars have been discovered by FAST and verified by the Parkes telescope. George and I spent a sleepless night and a few exciting mornings running Parkes remotely from Guizhou to confirm FAST candidates. Few life experiences are as thrilling as making cosmic discoveries. I am truly lucky in sharing such experiences with my Australian collaborators.

 

 

George Hobbs: Since a young age, astronomy has always been a passion. One of the most dramatic objects in the sky is the Crab nebula − the remnant of a star that, almost 1000 years ago, was observed by Chinese astronomers to explode. The core of that ancient star is now a rapidly rotating object known as a pulsar.

 

Working with Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, I have spent my professional career discovering and studying pulsars, and am proud to be involved in the first science projects with FAST, situated in Guizhou – which is allowing Chinese and international astronomers to observe and study these enigmatic objects.

 

This unique telescope is now the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope. The team at NAOC recently announced that FAST had made its first discoveries of two pulsars. These pulsars were confirmed and are now being studied in detail by CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope.

 

What makes this NAOC/CSIRO collaboration so special is that most telescopes can only see one piece of the sky at a time: the multi-pixel receiver will ‘see’ more, speeding up how quickly FAST can survey the sky.

 

Over the coming years, our collaboration between the radio astronomers in Australia and China will grow. Being at similar longitudes, we can observe sources simultaneously with our telescopes and will undertake major science projects from searching for faint radio signals from planets beyond our solar system, to discovering pulsars, to studying our galaxy in unprecedented detail.

 

Li Di is Chief Scientist of the Radio Division, National Astronomical Observatories of China. George Hobbs is Astrophysicist, Parkes Pulsar Timing Array Project, CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science.

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