A Cosmic Census of Radio Pulsars with the SKA

Research paper by E. F. Keane, B. Bhattacharyya, M. Kramer, B. W. Stappers, S. D. Bates, M. Burgay, S. Chatterjee, D. J. Champion, R. P. Eatough, J. W. T. Hessels, G. Janssen, K. J. Lee, J. van Leeuwen, J. Margueron, M. Oertel, et al.

Indexed on: 30 Dec '14Published on: 30 Dec '14Published in: arXiv - Astrophysics - Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics


The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will make ground breaking discoveries in pulsar science. In this chapter we outline the SKA surveys for new pulsars, as well as how we will perform the necessary follow-up timing observations. The SKA's wide field-of-view, high sensitivity, multi-beaming and sub-arraying capabilities, coupled with advanced pulsar search backends, will result in the discovery of a large population of pulsars. These will enable the SKA's pulsar science goals (tests of General Relativity with pulsar binary systems, investigating black hole theorems with pulsar-black hole binaries, and direct detection of gravitational waves in a pulsar timing array). Using SKA1-MID and SKA1-LOW we will survey the Milky Way to unprecedented depth, increasing the number of known pulsars by more than an order of magnitude. SKA2 will potentially find all the Galactic radio-emitting pulsars in the SKA sky which are beamed in our direction. This will give a clear picture of the birth properties of pulsars and of the gravitational potential, magnetic field structure and interstellar matter content of the Galaxy. Targeted searches will enable detection of exotic systems, such as the ~1000 pulsars we infer to be closely orbiting Sgr A*, the supermassive black hole in the Galactic Centre. In addition, the SKA's sensitivity will be sufficient to detect pulsars in local group galaxies. To derive the spin characteristics of the discoveries we will perform live searches, and use sub-arraying and dynamic scheduling to time pulsars as soon as they are discovered, while simultaneously continuing survey observations. The large projected number of discoveries suggests that we will uncover currently unknown rare systems that can be exploited to push the boundaries of our understanding of astrophysics and provide tools for testing physics, as has been done by the pulsar community in the past.