Scott Ransom, NRAO (National Radio Astronomy Observatory)


Computer Science Special Guest Speaker

Scott Ransom, NRAO (National Radio Astronomy Observatory)
Friday, November 11, 2016
3:30 pm (short reception before talk at 3:00)
Rice Hall Auditorium
HOST: Andrew Grimshaw

The (obscene) Challenges of Next-Generation Pulsar Surveys


In the last decade, large-scale surveys for new radio pulsars have made incredible progress, particularly in their ability to find important binary and millisecond pulsars.  The reason for this progress has been Moore’s Law, the same reason behind our current efforts and plans to build fantastic next-generation radio facilities.

These new facilities, though, especially the radio arrays, will make pulsar searching incredibly difficult due to the (obscene) data rates that will be generated.  Dealing with data rates that we cannot record will demand new ways of thinking about and processing our pulsar data. And unfortunately these challenges apply not only to the SKA in some distant future, but are with us already today in the arrays we have in operation or under construction.


Scott is a tenured astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, VA where he studies all things “pulsar”.  He is also a Research Professor with the Astronomy Department at the University of Virginia where he has several graduate students and teaches the occasional graduate class.  He works on a wide variety of projects involving finding, timing, and exploiting pulsars of various types, using data from many different instruments and at energies from radio waves to gamma-rays.  His main focus is on searching for exotic pulsar systems, such as millisecond pulsars and binaries.  Once these pulsars are identified, he uses them as tools to probe a variety of basic physics, including tests of general relativity, the emission (and hopefully soon the direct detection) of gravitational waves (as part of the NANOGrav collaboration), and the physics of matter at supra-nuclear densities.  Much of his time is spent working on the state-of-the-art signal-processing instrumentation, high-performance computing and software that pulsar astronomy requires.

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