By the early 1980s, pulsar astronomy was a hot topic, but it was about to get hotter. In the early pulsar searches, the detectors used to search for pulsars sampled the incoming signal about every 20 milliseconds. This meant that pulsars with periods less than about 100 milliseconds were difficult to detect. This wasn’t considered a problem because all the theoretical and observational evidence suggested that pulsars spin several times per second. For example, the Crab pulsar was the fastest pulsar then known with a period of 33.1 milliseconds; it was also the youngest, being the result of the famous supernova explosion observed by the Chinese a mere thousand years ago. Even the binary pulsar discovered by Hulse and Taylor — the second-fastest pulsar on record — had been given a new lease on life through interaction with its unexpected companion and so somewhat of an oddity. No, the future lay in the discovery of more pulsars, but faster ones were not really thought likely. But as is usual in this game, deep in the darkness was lurking a pulsar spinning so fast it made all others look almost pedestrian. It was simply waiting for someone to look.
KeywordsNeutron Star Gravitational Wave Radio Source Radio Telescope Millisecond Pulsar
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- 1.Discovered during the fourth Cambridge survey in 1965.Google Scholar
- 2.Ironically, he wasn’t the first to make the connection: in 1965 Tony Hewish and his student Samuel Okoye submitted a paper suggesting that 1937+215 was a pulsar-supernova pair not unlike the Crab Nebula, but the paper was rejected with the referee’s comment: ‘too speculative’.Google Scholar
- 3.Strictly speaking, any two orbiting objects share a common center of gravity, including the Moon and Earth: it is just a matter of degree whether one is regarded as the center of the system or not.Google Scholar
- 4.Australian National University.Google Scholar