NANOGrav Meeting Hosted at UCF


Students from across North America participate in the NANOGrav Student Training Workshop prior to the science meeting.

Astronomy NANOGrav Meeting Hosted at UCF

The University of Central Florida (UCF) hosted the semi-annual NANOGrav science meeting and student training workshop from March 2 - 6th. The meeting gave scientists the opportunity to assess their ongoing projects and discuss future work, including their next big release of 15 years worth of data. NANOGrav, or the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves, is a collaboration of scientists from across the U.S. and Canada who search for gravitational waves by measuring their effects on the light-travel times of signals coming from pulsars. Dr. Maura McLaughlin, Eberly distinguished professor of physics and astronomy at West Virginia University and co-Director of the NANOGrav Physics Frontiers Center, said that the “science meeting went very well,” adding that the project is “placing strong constraints on the upper limits for the gravitational wave background”.

The NANOGrav project uses the world’s most sensitive radio telescopes for its project: Arecibo Observatory (AO) in Puerto Rico and the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, both of which are facilities of the National Science Foundation. The project uses over 800 hours of telescope time per year at AO, which contributes to about half of the overall NANOGrav sensitivity to the gravitational waves, thanks to the massive size of the telescope.

The University of Central Florida currently leads the consortium that manages the Arecibo Observatory. Dr. McLaughlin expressed that “hosting the meeting at UCF gave students and faculty at the university an opportunity to learn more about the project, and it would be great to have even more involvement from UCF.”

The meeting included a two-day workshop for undergraduate students - an “onboarding” opportunity that prepares them for the high level scientific discussions during the meeting. Dr. Benetge Perera, a scientist at AO, explained that during the workshop “students had the opportunity to learn pulsar searches, timing, and gravitational wave detection techniques with expert assistance, and then do practical assignments with actual data”.

Highlights of the meeting also included a discussion on Diversity & Equity by Barbara Thompson, the Associate Director of UCF’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion, and a public talk by Dr. Sarah Vigeland, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, titled “Pulsar Timing Arrays: Opening a New Gravitational-Wave Window on the Universe”.

Article written by Dr. Tracy Becker - AO Collaborator / SwRI Research Scientist Contact:

Arecibo Media Contact
Ricardo Correa
Universidad Ana G. Mendez (UAGM)
787-878-2612 ext. 615

Head of the Astronomy Dept.
Dr. Anish Roshi
Arecibo Observatory

Keywords: arecibo, observatory, Vigeland, McLaughlin, UCF, NANOGrav, workshop, Green, Bank, Wisconsin,