The discovery of pulsars has changed our view of the Universe

The discovery of pulsars has changed our view of the Universe

The CSIRO radio telescope detected approximately half of all known pulsars.

A pulsar is a tiny spinning star. This is a large-scale ball of neutrons remaining after a standard star death in a fiery explosion. With a diameter of 30 km, the star makes up to hundreds of revolutions per second, releasing a beam of radio waves (and sometimes X-rays). When the beam moves in our direction, we capture the momentum.

In 2017, the 50th anniversary of the discovery of pulsars was celebrated. During this time, more than 2600 objects were identified (mainly in our galaxy) and used to hunt for low-frequency gravitational waves to explain the structure of the galaxy and test the general theory of relativity.


In 1967, while people enjoyed the summer of love, a young student at the University of Cambridge helped build a telescope. It was associated with a dipole array and covered less than 2 hectares.

In July, Jocelyn Bell helped complete the construction and became responsible for launching the telescope and analyzing the collected data. The information came in the form of records on paper cards of 30 m every day. Bell could only look at the eye and did not use any technology.

What is a pulsar?

She noticed only a small “shift”, but he changed the story. On November 28, 1967, Bell and Anthony Hewish captured a strange signal. The student realized that one of the shifts is a sequence of pulses divided into 1/3 of a second. But Bell spent another 2 months to explain what they were facing.

Bell also found 3 more sources of impulses that could serve as an explanation, such as extraterrestrial civilizations, etc. In 1974, Bell and Hewish received the Nobel Prize in Physics.

The discovery of pulsars has changed our view of the Universe

Jocelyn Bell, who discovered the first pulsar

The Mystery of the Pulsar

For the first time, a telescopically managed to find a pulsar in 1968 using the radio telescope CSIRO (Australia). The Parks telescope immediately connected to it and after 50 years it recorded more than half of the list.

If we talk about new equipment, then the Chinese 500-meter Spherical Telescope with a diaphragm (FAST) deserves attention. He recently found several new pulsars.

Why look for them?

Scientists want to understand what these objects represent, their functioning, and how they fit into the general star population. The most amazing are superfast pulsars, super slow and extremely massive. With their help, it is possible to better understand the structure of matter in the conditions of superdense planes. Pulsars are often found in binary systems, where the neighboring star tells about the nature of the first object.

Jocelyn Bell describes how she found pulsars

Pulsars are also used as clocks. For example, the synchronization of a pulsar helps to find the background noise of low-frequency gravitational waves. In addition, with their help, they study the change in galactic structure and test the general theory of relativity.

Any scientist’s dream is to find a pulsar in orbit around a black hole, because these are the most extreme conditions to test Einstein’s theory. In the future, pulsars can be considered as a navigation system for traveling into deep space. In 2016, China launched the XPNAV-1 satellite, which focuses on periodic X-ray signals from several pulsars.

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