Jacob Cardinal Tremblay, a senior Physics and Astronomy major at WVU, was chosen for a fellowship with the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) at the David A. Dunlap Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. During his internship, he worked closely with Dr. Cherry Ng and Dr. James McKee on dispersion measure variations in NANOGrav pulsars using data from CHIME (Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment).
His project is important to NANOGrav and pulsar research in general due to CHIME’s revolutionary capabilities. CHIME has a daily observation rate whereas typical NANOGrav observations can only be done once every 3-4 weeks. This means that he is able to look at pulsar dispersion measures in a much more precise manner and will be able to try and analyze what contributes to these changes in DM. Dispersion Measure (DM) is very important to pulsar astronomy and is the integrated column density of free electrons along the line of sight to a pulsar. Because of this, it is also useful as it can be somewhat of an estimate of the distance to a pulsar. DM variations add delays to the data and reduce the precision if left uncorrected.CHIME is also a great tool for this type of project, since it operates in the 400-800 MHz band, whereas typical telescopes observe around 1400 MHz. Since DM scales as a factor offrequency-2 CHIME is able to make better observations for the project.
"Another added benefit to this project is that it will allow us to look at interstellar medium variations (ISM) which can result in uncovering some interesting astrophysical properties of the ISM" states Jacob.
According to Jacob, the internship has provided many fun learning experiences including daily Zoom meeting with researchers not only involved in his project, but also people who are in completely different fields of astronomy. He was able to gain a larger overview and deeper knowledge of all domains of astronomy and astrophysics.
Jacob notes that his biggest point of progress was made in his programming skills and presentation skills. He has been presenting his progress during regular meetings, which further allows him to communicate his research in an interesting and engaging way.
On his experience in the internship, Jacob says “Overall, I would say that this summer experience has not only been extremely educational, but I have had so much fun that I have been able to confirm that pursuing a career path as a researcher in astronomy is what I want to do!”