Clocks in the Sky - The Story of Pulsars (SPBPA) by Geoff McNamara

By Geoff McNamara

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For example, even if the Sun were to suddenly stop shining for some unknown reason, it wouldn't wink out but rather fade gradually over a period of about a second. 3 million kilometers and so the last rays of light from the farther side of the Sun would take about a second `Scruff' 45 longer to reach us than the last rays from the nearer side. Because nothing can travel faster than light, the idea of something flickering on and off so rapidly implied it was very small. At the same time, the incredible accuracy of the period implied it was something large and regular.

This involved taking the signals from two widely spaced aerials and delaying one of them so that it is alternately in and out of phase with the signal from the other. The result of this technique is easier identification of the point radio sources against the background. Using this technique the Cambridge team were able to catalog 50 sources. Four years later, in 1952, Ryle led a team that made use of a `double interferometer' consisting of four cylindrical aerials placed in the corners of a large field a few kilometers west of Cambridge.

Baade and Zwicky went further still. One of the by-products of such a supernova would be the creation of a bizarre new type of star. With all reserve we advance the view that a supernova represents the transition of an ordinary star into a neutron star, consisting mainly of neutrons. Such a star may possess a very small radius and an extremely high density. As neutrons can be packed much more closely than ordinary nuclei and electrons, the "gravitational packing" energy in a cold neutron star may become very large, and, under certain circumstances, may far exceed the ordinary nuclear packing fractions.

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