Prof Benjamin Stappers - research
I am interested in all manifestations of neutron stars although I presently work predominantly with radio pulsars. I am also interested in pulsar related hardware and computing.
I study pulsars both as tools to probe the physics of gravity and the interstellar medium but also to understand more about the process by which they emit. With a PhD student we have recently completed the largest ever study of the single pulses from radio pulsars. From this we were able to determine that there are some charateristics of the radio emission which appear to be common across the whole population. However, the physics behind what links these sources is something which is not yet clear.
In the continuing attempts to increase the known population of radio pulsars and thereby understand the population as a whole and also to find individually interesting objects which provide ever beter physical tools, I am leading the LOFAR pulsar effort. LOFAR is the first of the next generation radio telescopes to come online and it works in the relatively poorly studied frequency range from 30 to 240 MHz. This survey has the potential to find more than 1000 new pulsars, more than doubling the total number of pulsars known in the Northern sky. It will also be sensitive enough to find all the nearby pulsars and therfore will provide a unique probe of the radio pulsar population.
I am also involved in the European Pulsar Timing Array project which uses the very precise clock like nature of the signals from radio pulsars to search for gravitational waves from early in the universe. The EPTA brings together those telescopes in Europe which undertake pulsar timing, Effelsberg, Jodrell Bank, Nancay, Sardinia and the WSRT, to combine all of our high precision pulsar timing data. This combined data set and data from the next 5 years will allows us to study with high detail individual sources but will allow us to possibility to detect gravitational waves directly for the first time.