The prototype of the first Large Telescope (LST-1) of the future observatory International Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA), of which the University of Jaén has been a part since 2011, has detected the emission of very high energy gamma rays from the central pulsar of the Crab Nebula about 6000 light-years from Earth.

Although these emissions were already known, the fact that they were detected in record time, when the LST-1 is still in the calibration and tuning phase, is a remarkable fact that certifies the smooth operation of the telescope. This achievement has recently been confirmed and announced by the CTA consortium after rigorous analysis.

Pulsars, a kind of stellar corpses

Pulsars are a kind of dense and compact stellar corpses of the order of 10 km. They spin very quickly and have strong magnetic fields so that at each turn we see a flash of emission that can be detected from radio waves to gamma rays. Its behavior is analogous to that of lighthouses used for maritime navigation. Although many pulsars have been detected in radio waves, gamma ray pulsations are a very rare phenomenon observed in just four pulsars, that of the Crab among them. Furthermore, only a few Cherenkov telescopes in the world have the ability to detect light pulses in a domain as energetic as gamma rays. Now, the LST-1 has joined this select club, in what is expected to be a prelude to the results and astrophysical discoveries to come.

Cherenkov Telescope, on La Palma.

The University of Jaén, as a member of the CTA consortium and the LST-1 collaboration, participated in the calibration work of the new telescope during the months prior to the detection of pulsations, on data taken in early 2020. For four weeks, Between September and October 2019, the teachers of the Higher Polytechnic School of Jaén Josep Martí Ribas and Pedro Luis Luque Escamilla they remained as operators of the LST-1 telescope within the rotating shifts of the various international institutions involved in its operation. Previously, the Jaén team participated in the design and construction of the access tower for the LST-1, and is currently working on improving the design of the access towers for the LST-2, LST-3 and LST-4 telescopes, whose Construction is also planned on the island of La Palma as the central nucleus of the CTA Norte observatory. These last tasks are carried out by the mechanical engineer graduated from the University of Jaén, Raúl Bautista González.

The work of the UJA in CTA over the last years has been possible thanks to various sources of funding, mainly the Research Support Plan of the University of Jaén and the R&D Projects of the ERDF Operational Program. Andalucía 2014-2020 of the Ministry of Economy and Knowledge of the Junta de Andalucía.

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