Pulsars will bring the discoverer $ 3 million after 50 years of silence

Pulsars will bring the discoverer $ 3 million after 50 years of silence

Jocelyn Burnell Bell is going to get a well-deserved recognition for his scientific achievements, albeit with a serious time lag. British astrophysics will be awarded a special “breakthrough” prize. This was announced by the organizers of the award on September 6. The reward of $ 3 million will mark not only the discovery of pulsars in 1967, but also emphasize her scientific work during 50 years of work.

Historical discovery

In 1967, Burnell Bell (then Jocelyn Bell) was a graduate student at the University of Cambridge (England). In November, she managed to notice something strange in the data received by the radio telescope. Together with the supervisor, they identified a bizarre impulse, repeating every 1.3 seconds. The signal was so strange that scientists jokingly called him “the little green man-1”. But Burnell soon noticed other similar objects, which means that the source should be a natural space object.

As a result, the researchers determined that the signals come from rapidly rotating neutron stars - the incredibly dense remnants of massive stars that died in supernova explosions. New objects are called pulsars (“pulsate” and “quasars”).

Pulsars will bring the discoverer $ 3 million after 50 years of silence

Jocelyn Burnell Bell, who discovered pulsars in 1967, will receive a special breakthrough prize of $ 3 million in the category of fundamental physics

However, pulsars do not pulsate, but constantly release rays, which evenly add up to the line of observation with our planet (therefore, Earth scientists see them). The discovery of Burnell Bell will always remain one of the greatest surprises in the history of astronomy, because until that moment no one knew that they existed.

Pulsars opened the door to new observations. For example, they were used to test Einstein’s general theory of relativity, and the accuracy of repetitive signals allowed the creation of detailed space maps. In 1974, Anthony Hewish (led by Burnell Bell) won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his role in the discovery of pulsars. But he divided this part not with an assistant, but with a friend, astronomer Martin Ryle. Burnell Bell said that she was not offended, because she perfectly understood the situation where no one was going to share with the student.

50 years of scientific leadership

Burnell Bell is now officially recognized for his decisive role in the discovery of the pulsar. But she is honored not only for that. The contribution is also important as a teacher and leader. Over the past 50 years, she headed the Royal Astronomical Society and became the first woman president of the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of Edinburgh (now she is chancellor of the University of Dundee in Scotland and a visiting professor of astrophysics at Oxford University in England). The prize of $ 3 million will allow her to continue scientific activities. She plans to use the money to finance graduate students with a big emphasis on physics. She says: “I feel that I have contributed in part because I was an outsider. I was one of the few women who also did not belong to a rich part of the country by birth. ” She also added that she did not expect to receive the award and the news was a complete surprise.

The official award will be held on November 4 during the awards ceremony in 2019 in Silicon Valley. Burnell Bell is destined to become the fourth winner of a special award, which is awarded for outstanding achievements.

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