The Hunt for New and Interesting Pulsars with the Green Bank Telescope

Lynch, Ryan Sean, Department of Astronomy, University of Virginia
Ransom, Scott, Department of Astronomy, University of Virginia

Pulsars are excellent tools for studying a variety of phenomena in physics and astronomy. Millisecond pulsars (MSPs) are particularly useful because of their clock-like precision and because they are often part of exotic systems. The majority of MSPs have been found in globular clusters (GCs) or in large-area surveys, but most surveys are still sensitivity limited, meaning that many fascinating systems are waiting to be found. A number of technical advances made over the past decade have enabled more sensitive pulsar surveys. This thesis presents the results of several projects with over-arching goals that focused on the discovery and study of new pulsars, with an emphasis on MSPs. Seven new pulsars have been discovered in surveys of 17 GCs, and the majority of these are fully recycled MSPs. These surveys provide insight into which factors influence the total pulsar content of GCs. New timing solutions have been obtained for an additional six GC pulsars that were previously known but not fully characterized; updated solutions are also presented for five well-studied pulsars. Highlights include the discovery of the most massive companion to a fully recycled MSP, and confirmation of a rare, non-recycled GC pulsar. A detailed study of the population of non-recycled pulsars that originate in GCs is also presented, with an emphasis on those pulsars that escape from their host GCs and enter the field of the Galaxy. These results suggest that non-recycled pulsars in GCs are formed via electron capture supernovae, and that these must induce smaller natal kicks than core collapse supernovae. The total population of non-recycled pulsars that have escaped from clusters may be significant, but the chance of identifying them as a separate population is presently small. Finally, early results of the Green Bank Telescope Drift Scan survey are reported. The survey has discovered 26 new pulsars so far, and timing solutions for ten are discussed here, including two recycled pulsars. One iv of these looks to be an excellent laboratory for studying extreme physics. Future avenues of research are also presented, along with a description of the author's role in education and public outreach projects.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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