Seminar Series

Radio Pulsars and Gravitational Wave Detectors


Willem van Straten


Mathematical Sciences Department, AUT

Time & Place

Fri, 02 Jun 2017 11:00:00 NZST in Rutherford 531

All are welcome


One long-term objective of high-precision radio pulsar timing experiments is the detection of a stochastic background of low-frequency (nanoHertz) gravitational waves, such as those predicted to be produced by a Universe populated with binary supermassive black holes. A wide variety of hurdles must be overcome to achieve the sensitivity required to detect the anticipated signal, and I will focus on two of these: 1) multipath propagation in the ionised interstellar medium and 2) the intrinsic impulsive irregularity of the pulsar signal. I will describe some of the statistical methods that are currently under development to mitigate the impact of these phenomena, present some of the early results of this work, and highlight some of the avenues that remain to be explored.


Willem van Straten profile

As an undergraduate in Canada, I was preparing for a job in the space industry when I learned about radio astronomy and new ways to study the physical extremes of our Universe through pulsars. I completed my PhD on high-precision pulsar timing in Australia before undertaking post-doctoral and academic staff appointments at the Netherlands Foundation for Research in Astronomy (ASTRON), The Centre for Gravitational Wave Astronomy (The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley), and the Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing (Swinburne University of Technology). In 2016, I joined AUT as a Senior Lecturer.

I’ve co-authored over 100 refereed journal articles, primarily related to the study of pulsars and fast radio bursts, including 4 in Science and 2 in Nature. I work closely with international collaborators on large, long-term projects such as the Parkes Pulsar Timing Array (PPTA), the International Pulsar Timing Array (IPTA), and the Survey for Pulsars and Extragalactic Radio Bursts (SUPERB). In support of these projects, I’ve led the development of three scientific data analysis packages that are used by the international community of pulsar astronomers (psrdada, dspsr, and psrchive). I am currently leading the design of the pulsar timing instrumentation for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) as a member of the SKA Central Signal Processor consortium.