This award will provide partial support for the conference "Pulsar research at the Arecibo Observatory: a celebration of five key contributors," to be held in Arecibo, Puerto Rico in March 2011.
This conference brings together about 100 researchers (including 20-30 students and new researchers) to review major contributions to the field, and discuss future directions. Topics will include pulsar timing, emission mechanisms, polarimetry, using pulsars to detect low-frequency gravitational waves, and as probes of the interstellar medium.
Pulsars are rapidly rotating highly magnetized neutron stars formed during the core collapse in the supernova explosions of massive stars. In a manner similar to that of lighthouses, these exotic stars emit regular trains of pulses as their rotation sweeps their magnetic poles past the observers line of sight, with one pulse per rotation. The clock-like stability of these objects allows astronomers to probe the physics of pulsars and their local environments to remarkable precision. Studies of these fascinating objects have provided applications in solid-state physics, general relativity, Galactic astronomy, astrometry, planetary physics and even cosmology. The meeting "Pulsar research at the Arecibo Observatory: a celebration of five key contributors" took place on March 19-22 2011 at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The observatory is home to the 305-m radio telescope operated by the National Radio and Ionospheric Center (NAIC) which has formed an integral part of the scientific productivity of our honorees. The scientific program showcased their achievements which span pulsar astronomy and studies of the interstellar medium. A total of 65 participants were in attendance from all over the world. The meeting began with a session celebrating Joel Weisbergs contribution to "Pulsar Timing" - the art of measuring the arrival times of pulses to extract fundamental physics about their environments. The 1993 co-recipient of the Nobel Physics Prize, Joe Taylor, began the session with an historical perspective of Joel's contributions to this area. Following this, we heard talks describing current work on tests of general relativity using binary pulsar systems (Paulo Freire and Joris Verbiest). A remarkable new binary system was described by Anne Archibald which sheds important clues about how the most rapidly spinning pulsars form was also described. In the second session, we celebrated Tim Hankins contribution to observations which try to answer the difficult question about how pulsars radiate. Tim himself talked about his extensive observations of one of the orignally discovered pulsars in the Crab supernova remnant which occasionally emits giant pulses that are many times the average level seen in other sources. Many theorists are still puzzling over these observations and we heard talks by Jean Eilek, Andrey Timokhin, Valery Malofeev and George Melikidze on the latest ideas concerning pulsar emission. On the second morning of the meeting, participants were given tours of the observatory by staff members, and had the opportunity to walk out to the platform containing the receivers at the focus of the telescope. Following these tours, a session focusing on Joanna Rankin's contribution to the polarimetry of pulsars took place in which Joanna described her perspective of observations with Arecibo while Simon Johnston presented observations with the Parkes telescope in Australia. Joel Weisberg presented highlights of Joanna's many international collaborations over the years, while Isabel Kloumann and Julia Deneva presented some very recent observational results. Barney Rickett's focus in pulsar astronomy has been in using pulsars to understand the material between us and the pulsar - the so-called "interstellar medium". Following an overview on this field by Barney, his colleagues Dan Stinebring, Bill Coles and Ryan Shnnon gave lectures on the current state of play. A talk by Tom Hassal provided new results from a telescope in the Netherlands operating at low radio frequencies. The final session highlighted Jim Cordes' contributions to pulsar populations. Cordes and Matthew Bailes provided the opening talks summarizing progress in understanding the parent population of neutron stars (there are many more present than we can actually observe). Talks by Shami Chatterjee, Ryan Lynch and Roger Romani gave results from different areas (astrometry, globular clusters and gamma-ray telescopes). In addition to the main presentations, a further 20 posters were presented during the meeting. The NSF support provided critical travel assistance that allowed many visitors from the U.S. and abroad to attend the meeting which would otherwise have not been possible.