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High-School Sophomore Makes Discovery
It’s one thing when an amateur astronomer makes a discovery, but a high-school student?
In March, Clarksburg, W. Va., sophomore Lucas Bolyard came across the signature of an object while working on a project that trains students to help analyze astronomical data. Supervising astronomers determined it was probably a rare object known as a rotating radio transient. These strange neutron stars emit sporadic bursts of radio waves. There are only about 30 known.
Bolyard waded through more than 2,000 data plots, finding nothing. He was examining images when “I saw a plot with a pulse, but there was much radio interference. The pulse was almost dismissed as interference.”
He reported the pulse as an anomaly worth further investigation. When West Virginia University astronomers took follow-up observations, they found nothing in the spot where the pulse came from. This proved that it wasn’t a normal pulsar.
Scientists confirmed the original pulse signal was real, not interference, by reprocessing the raw data. This indicated the strange object was probably a rare rotating radio transient. These are thought to be similar to regular pulsars, but they emit intermittently, one burst a time, instead of continuously. This makes them hard to find; the first was discovered in 2006. ■