Jocelyn Susan Bell Burnell

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Jocelyn Susan Bell Burnell

An important woman in the contribution of science is Jocelyn Bell Burnell. She is a British astronomer that discovered pulsars, which is a tiny, very dense, rapidly rotating neutron star that appear to emit radiation in pulses.

Jocelyn was born in 1943 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She was raised near the Armagh Observatory, which obviously impacted her life She graduated from Glasgow University in 1965 with a B.S. degree in Physics, and in 1968 she received a Ph.D. in radio astronomy from the University of Cambridge in 1968. Jocelyn began her studies by conducting experiments of gamma-ray astronomy at the University of Southampton. From 1974 through 1982, Jocelyn worked in X-ray astronomy at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at the University College in London. In 1982 she became a senior research fellow at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, Scotland, working with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii and also did astrophysical research in the optical and infrared parts of the electromagnetic spectrum until 1991.

Her discovery came from the initial research at Cambridge, where she built a radio telescope to track quasars, which are starlike objects that have a large red shift, emit powerful blue light, and can often emit radio waves. Then in 1967, while using the radio telescope, there was an unexpected discovery, which she shared among with Antony Hewish and other colleagues. Jocelyn noticed that there was a source of regular, intense pulses of radio waves that emitted a burst every 1.337 seconds. At first, there was an attempted explanation that this phenomenon might be a beacon from alien sources, so they initially named the pulsing source LGM or “Little Green Men”. After a few months, however, the astronomer had discovered a number of other sources in distant space and deduced from their far away locations and other characteristics, that these pulses must be occurring naturally. Then Jocelyn and her colleagues realized that these pulse patterns came from a special type of star that they naturally termed a pulsar.

Her discovery has made a huge impact in the science world. Astronomers have now

discovered over 400 pulsars, but only the Crab Pulsar and the Vela pulsar, can emit visibly detectable pulses. These pulsars are distinguished from other types of celestial radio sources by their emissions.
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