‘What makes pulsars tick?’
The late astronomer David Allen once described in his beautiful style the most remarkable feature of pulsars: how fast they spin. Imagine, he once said, that you were looking at a pulsar spinning on a pedestal. Paint a mark on the side of the pulsar near its equator. Now ask yourself: how fast would I have to drive in a car to keep up with that mark if the pulsar was spinning once a minute? Given a diameter of 20 km or so, you would in fact have to drive at a speed of around 3,700 kilometers an hour. However, pulsars do not spin once a minute, he went on. The first ones discovered spin in just a few seconds and it would not be long before even faster ones were found. It is no wonder that astronomers found such a concept difficult to accept, and for a long time the idea of pulsars being a spinning phenomenon was not taken seriously at all. No, there had to be another explanation.
KeywordsNeutron Star Radio Wave Radio Source White Dwarf Radio Telescope
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- 1.The paper was published in the November 11th 1967 issue of Nature , but written about six months before the announcement by Hewish et al in February 1968.Google Scholar
- 2.It should be mentioned that apparently Gold’s predictions were not unique. One astronomer I contacted said many were amazed when Gold received credit for the rotating neutron star model, since it ‘was a common piece of coffee time speculation’.Google Scholar
- 3.Manchester, D. ‘Pulsars at Parkes — Past and Present.’.Google Scholar