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Discoverer of Pulsars --First Thought to be Signals from Extraterrestrial Civilization, Named Head of Royal Society

 

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The Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland's national academy of science and the arts, has appointed its first female president. Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist credited with one of the most significant scientific achievements of the 20th Century. She was a doctoral student at Cambridge University when she discovered the first pulsars in 1967. Pulsars are among the most exotic objects found in the galaxy. They are the peculiar relics of massive stars that have ended their lives in a tremendously powerful explosion called "supernova".

The cosmic sources of radio signals are so regular that some people had thought they might come from extra-terrestrials, so the new objects were dubbed little green men (LGM).

 

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"Were these pulsations man-made, but by man from another civilization?," asked Bell-Burnell after the discovery.

 

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This link takes you to a fascinating article originally presented as an after-dinner speech by Bell-Burnett - it's a very personal and entertaining account of the discovery: "Little Green Men, White Dwarfs or Pulsars?" 

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