StarChild Question of the Month for May 2002


Who discovered the first pulsar?

shuttle divider


Jocelyn Bell discovered the first pulsar in 1967. At the time, she was a graduate student at Cambridge University. She was working with her advisor, Dr. Anthony Hewish, to make radio observations of the universe.

Bell and Hewish had no idea what the signals were that they detected, so they were dubbed little green men (LGM) as a reference to extraterrestrial life. Soon after, Thomas Gold showed that a spinning neutron star could make the pulses they observed.

photo of Jocelyn Bell in 1967 in front of the radio 
telescope with which she discovered the first pulsar

You can read an account of the discovery by Dr. Bell Burnell which is highly entertaining. You can also learn more about her and listen to her answer some questions submitted by StarChild users.

shuttle divider

The StarChild site is a service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA/ GSFC.

StarChild Authors: The StarChild Team
StarChild Graphics & Music: Acknowledgments
StarChild Project Leader: Dr. Laura A. Whitlock
Curator: J.D. Myers
Responsible NASA Official: Phil Newman