This award will support an observational program to discover and characterize pulsars toward the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron stars, which are usually best detected at radio wavelengths because they emit regular pulsations from beamed emission that periodically sweeps across the Earth. The goal of the project is not to study pulsars or their radio emission, but rather to use pulsars as probes of the gravitational field in the galactic center. This group has already detected several radio pulsars in the galactic center region, and now wishes to undertake a careful survey to find more.
In the event that one or more can be found in physical proximity to the massive black hole at the galactic center, long-term positional and timing studies can provide valuable tests of general relativity and can detect the presence of optically invisible members of the central star cluster. The project will benefit from the participation and education of graduate students. This group will also work with the Pulsar Search Collaboratory, funded by NSF, which brings together pulsar researchers and high school/undergraduate students in the West Virginia area.