Searching for pulsars with MeerKAT

  • Tinn Thongmeearkom

Student thesis: Master of Philosophy


Pulsars are fabulous laboratories to study fundamental physics and can be used, among other things, to try and detect gravitational waves. Experience has shown that pulsars that prove most useful at helping us explore the laws of physics are often the rare ones, either because they are the fastest spinning ones, are found in extreme binary systems, or simply display unusual properties. This fact motivates the continuous need to search for new pulsars to expand the pool of available objects that we can use for physics studies. The work presented in this study aims to contribute to this endeavour. We follow an already well-established approach, which is to search for pulsars in regions of the sky where a gamma-ray point source has been detected by the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope, but no counterpart has been identified. Multiple of these targets are associated with energetic, young pulsars as well as millisecond pulsars. Our survey used the newly commissioned MeerKAT, the latest addition to the new generation of radio telescopes. Because of its large collective area, small dishes, and interferometric capabilities. MeerKAT represents a step-change in sensitivity, survey speed, and localisation for pulsar searching. The survey was performed at L-band and pointed for 10 minutes at each target of 79 unidentified gamma-ray sources detected with Fermi's Large Area Telescope (LAT) and selected from the 4FGL catalogue. This thesis mostly focuses on the preparation work of this survey, including source selection, processing, and candidate viewing. From the observing first pass of the survey, our work led to the identification of five excellent pulsar candidates, one of which has already been confirmed as a pulsar. We also detected one known pulsar whose location overlapped with one of the targeted fields.
Date of Award1 Aug 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorColin Clark (Supervisor) & Rene Breton (Supervisor)


  • pulsar
  • pulsar binary system
  • radio astronomy

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