) is a highly magnetized, rotatingneutron starthat emits a beam of electromagnetic radiation.This radiation can only be observedwhen the beam of emission is pointing towards the Earth, much the way a lighthousecan only be seen when the light is pointed in the direction of an observer, and isresponsible for the pulsed appearance of emission. Neutron stars are verydense,andhave short, regular rotationalperiods.This produces a very precise interval betweenpulses that range from roughly milliseconds to seconds for an individual pulsar.The precise periods of pulsars makes them useful tools. Observations of a pulsar in abinary neutron star system were used to indirectly confirm the existence of gravitationalradiation.The firstextrasolar planetswere discovered around a pulsar,PSR B1257+12.Certain types of pulsars rivalatomic clocksin their accuracy in keeping time.
The observed emission from the pulsar was pulses separated by1.33 seconds, originated from the same location on the sky, and kept tosidereal time.Inlooking for explanations for the pulses, the short period of the pulses eliminated mostastrophysical sources of radiation, such asstars,and since the pulses followed siderealtime, it could not be man-maderadio frequency interference.When observations withanother telescope confirmed the emission, it eliminated any sort of instrumental effects.At this point, Burnell notes of herself and Hewish that "we did not really believe that wehad picked up signals from another civilization, but obviously the idea had crossed ourminds and we had no proof that it was an entirely natural radio emission. It is aninteresting problem
if one thinks one may have detected life elsewhere in the universe,how does one announce the results responsibly?"
and first appeared in print in1968:An entirely novel kind of star came to light on Aug. 6 last year and was referred to, byastronomers, as LGM (Little Green Men). Now it is thought to be a novel type betweena white dwarf and a neutron [
]. The name Pulsar is likely to be given to it. Dr. A.
Hewish told me yesterday: "… I am sure that today every radio telescope is looking at
The suggestion that pulsars were rotating neutron stars was put forth independently byThomas GoldandFranco Paciniin 1968, and was soon proven beyond reasonable doubtby the discovery of a pulsar with a very short (33-millisecond)pulse period in theCrabnebula.In 1974, Antony Hewish became the first astronomer to be awarded theNobel Prize inphysics.Considerable controversy is associated with the fact that Professor Hewish wasawarded the prize while Bell, who made the initial discovery while she was his Ph.Dstudent, was not. Bell claims no bitterness upon this point, supporting the decision of the Nobel prize committee.
Observations soon revealed that its magneticfield was much weaker than ordinary pulsars, while further discoveries cemented theidea that a new class of object, the"millisecond pulsars" (MSPs) had been found. MSPsare believed to be the end product of X-ray binaries.Owing to their extraordinarilyrapid and stable rotation, MSPs can be used byastronomersas clocks rivaling thestability of the bestatomic clockson Earth. Factors affecting the arrival time of pulsesat the Earth by more than a few hundrednanosecondscan be easily detected and used tomake precise measurements. Physical parameters accessible through pulsar timinginclude the 3D position of the pulsar, itsproper motion,theelectroncontent of theinterstellar mediumalong the propagation path, the orbital parameters of any binary