Scott Slezak's pictureScott Slezak

Hope College

Dr. Gonthier

Supported by Michigan Space Grant Consortium

I spent this past summer working at NASA - Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. I worked with Professor Peter Gonthier from Hope, and two astrophysicists at Goddard, Alice Harding and Matthew Baring. They have created a computer model of radiation from a high magnetic field gamma ray pulsar, known as PSR 1509-58. Due to its extremely high magnetic field (3x10^13 gauss), the magnetosphere of this pulsar is one of the few places in the universe that a reaction known as Magnetic Photon Splitting can occur. This reaction is predicted by QED, but cannot be studied on Earth due to the high B fields necessary. There is evidence for this reaction in the spectrum of PSR 1509-58 (a high energy cut-off in the gamma-ray region of the spectrum).

Dr. Harding and Dr. Baring have created a computer model to simulate this reaction and other reactions in the magnetosphere of this pulsar to see if the observed spectrum could be matched. I worked on this project over the summer, adding a few new features to the model to make it more physically accurate, as well as improving the computational performance of the program (faster and more accurate).