The Causation of Glitches in Pulsars

Friday, February 12, 2016
Emily Zhang, Lexington High School, Lexington, MA
This project aimed to find correlations between glitches in pulsars and other pulsar parameters that could be used to help explain the cause of glitches - brief events of increased rotational frequency that throw off the otherwise remarkably steady rotation of pulsars.

Data from the ATNF Pulsar Catalog was put into statistical software and compared against both the presence (categorical analysis) and number (continuous analysis) of glitches in pulsars to look for significant correlations. The pulsars were compared through partitioning tests, which recursively split data to measure parameter significance against glitches. Partitioning conclusively yielded spin-down age, spin-down energy-loss rate, and galactic longitude as the most significant parameters when pulsars were tested for number of glitches. Pulsars tested for presence of glitches only yielded spin-down age and spin-down energy-loss rate as the most significant parameters, but the results were similar across the two tests. These results had relatively high R-squared values for astronomy, meaning that they explained a large portion of glitches in pulsars.

The significance of galactic longitude points to an outside influence affecting pulsar glitches in an area, while the significance of spin-down energy-loss rate and spin-down age supports previous glitch studies. By identifying involved factors, the results of this experiment help in the creation of a new theory for the cause of glitches. A new, accurate theory would be extremely important as it would account for the irregularities pulsars suffer as a result of glitches, hence making pulsars a more reliable reference point for astronomers and eligible for use in future technology.