Parkes radio telescope

The Parkes radio telescope.

Bringing pulsars to the people

Data from CSIRO's telescopes has been put online for researchers outside CSIRO, with help from the Australian National Data Service.

  • 18 April 2011 | Updated 14 October 2011

CSIRO has made public the original data from 4500 observations of pulsars (small stars that produce a regular train of radio pulses) observed with its Parkes radio telescope.

This is the 'first fruit' of a project being carried out by Information Management and Technology, Astronomy and Space Science, and the Australian National Data Service, to make Parkes pulsar data accessible to researchers outside CSIRO.

CSIRO's Parkes telescope has found more pulsars than any other telescope in the world. It is heavily used for pulsar studies, including a program to search for cosmic gravitational waves that uses pulsars as clocks.

CSIRO's Parkes telescope has found more pulsars than any other telescope in the world.

Over time, the public data set will be expanded to hundreds of thousands, or perhaps even millions, of records.

The Australian National Data Service (ANDS) was established by the Commonwealth Government in 2008 to make such large research datasets easily accessible. The pulsar project is one of four projects CSIRO is working on with ANDS.

The pulsar data can be accessed through the Data Access Portal. It is fully compliant with the standards of the international Virtual Observatory, a collection of data archives and software tools designed to allow astronomers to painlessly access any public astronomical dataset. This means that the Parkes pulsar data can be readily accessed by astronomers whose main interest lies in another branch of astronomy—for instance, optical astronomers who study stars.

Some of the data is derived from an outreach project PULSE@Parkes. The project allows high-school students to control the Parkes telescope over the internet and do real science. Now the data from those studies will be available for other students to analyse.

The pulsar data project was funded by a A$482K Education Investment Fund Fast Start Activity grant.

Read more about Parkes, NSW (Parkes radio telescope).