How can the Fourier Transform be Used in Radio Astronomy to Perform Spectral Analysis of Pulsars


  • Pranesh Kumar High School Senior
  • Professor Arthur Western Pioneer Academics Research Program



Pulsars, Astronomy, Stars, Radio, Radio Waves, Fourier Transform, Fourier Series, Dedispersion, Dispersion


The analysis of pulsars is a complicated procedure due to the influence of background radio waves. Special radio telescopes designed to detect pulsar signals have to employ many techniques to reconstruct interstellar signals and determine if they originated from a pulsating radio source. The Discrete Fourier Transform on its own has allowed astronomers to perform basic spectral analysis of potential pulsar signals. However, Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) makes the process of detecting and analyzing pulsars extremely difficult. This has forced astronomers to be creative in identifying and determining the specific characteristics of these unique rotating neutron stars.

Astrophysicists have utilized algorithms such as the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) to predict the spin period and harmonic frequencies of pulsars. However, FFT-based searches cannot be utilized alone because low-frequency pulsar signals go undetected in the presence of background radio noise. Astrophysicists must stack up pulses using the Fast Folding Algorithm (FFA) and utilize the coherent dedispersion technique to improve FFT sensitivity.

The following research paper will discuss how the Discrete Fourier Transform is a useful technique for detecting radio signals and determining the pulsar frequency. It will also discuss how dedispersion and the pulsar frequency are critical for predicting multiple characteristics of pulsars and correcting the influence of the Interstellar Medium (ISM).


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Author Biography

Professor Arthur Western, Pioneer Academics Research Program

Emeritus Professor of Physics and Optical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of

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How to Cite

Kumar, P., & Western, A. (2021). How can the Fourier Transform be Used in Radio Astronomy to Perform Spectral Analysis of Pulsars. Journal of Student Research, 10(2).



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