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Astronomical Clocks
In The Sky
Team J:
Ashley Randall
Ashton Butts
Priscilla Garcia
Jessica Wilkinson
Olivia Arrington
Pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron
A neutron star is only ten kilometers
in size
They are created in a supernova
explosion near the end of a star’s life
Pulsars spin at quick speeds ranging
from milliseconds to seconds
Single pulsars spin about once every
second, and pulsars in binary systems
spin thousands of times every second
To learn how to calculate the rotation period of a pulsar
To calculate the size of the pulsar’s orbit
To calculate the luminosity of the pulsar
Used NASA observations collected with the Chandra
X-ray telescope
Used the ds9 computer program to analyze the
DS9 computer program written by NASA
DS9 instruction handbook
Textbook: Horizons: Exploring the Universe by Michael A. Seeds
Lecture Notes: Dr. M. Richards
Chandra X-ray Telescope archives:
NASA Chandra Education webpage
Load the light curve data from the Chandra archives
Light Curve: how light from the pulsar changes with
We measured the period directly from the light curve
Calculated the average period and standard deviation for the
The power spectrum finds any patterns in the light curve
We calculated the period from the frequency: Period =
1 .
 Objects studied: Cen X-3, GK Per, Vela pulsar
GK Per
Cen X-3
Star size = 10 km
Rotation period =
4.807 sec
Star size = 6000 km
Rotation period = 350.87 sec
When we expand the power spectrum for Cen X-3, the peak
looks broad
Pulsar moving
away from us
Pulsar moving
towards us
The light from the pulsar is blue-shifted and red-shifted
because the pulsar is moving around another object
Measure the spin period and orbital period of Cen X-3
Cen X-3 Pulsar
Vela Pulsar
Size of star (km)
Distance (light years)
Rotation Period (sec)
4.809 sec
0.089 sec
Size of orbit
1.387 x 107 km
Flux or brightness (counts/sec)
66.8  1.1
12.6  1.1
Luminosity (ergs/sec)
7.55 x 1036
9.07 x 1032
Luminosity compared to the Sun
1970 x Lsun
0.24 x Lsun
Luminosity = 4 distance2 x flux
Conclusions/ Further Research
Astronomical clocks are found in many places in the
We studied the light curves of three astronomical
clocks and measured their properties.
We calculated spin periods and confirmed that
pulsars spin at very high speeds. They have periods
from seconds to milliseconds.
Future work:
Eberly College Of Science
Dr. Daniel Larson, Dean of Eberly College of Science
Dr. Mercedes Richards
Ms. Jody Markley
Mrs. Annie Holmes
Mr. Craig Keiser
Ms. Joanne Nash
UBMS Staff
 Any