A Brief History
On November 28, 1967, British astronomers Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Antony Hewish discovered PSR B1919+21 in the constellation of Vulpecula, the first report of a Pulsar, a magnetized neutron star that emits “electromagnetic radiation out of its magnetic poles.”
Electromagnetic radiation, similar to radio waves, can only be detected on Earth when the beam is directly pointed at the observation point. As the incredibly dense neutron star rotates at a fast, although highly regular rate, the beams are predictable and easy to track once discovered. In fact, the beams are so regular that their frequency exceeds the accuracy of an atomic clock.
Bell, and her supervisor, Hewish, at first thought the detected energy was merely radio interference. Analysis of a “chart strip recorder” dispelled the random radio interference theory, and within a month another Pulsar was discovered. Neutron stars were first discovered in 1934, by German and Swiss astronomers Walter Baade and Fritz Zwicky.
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For more information, please see…
LaViolette, Paul. Decoding the Message of the Pulsars: Intelligent Communication from the Galaxy. Bear & Company, 2006.
Lyne, Andrew and Francis Graham-Smith. Pulsar Astronomy. Cambridge University Press, 2012.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Billthom of the chart on which Jocelyn Bell Burnell first recognised evidence of PSR B1919+21, exhibited at Cambridge University Library, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
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