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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Poring over The Mysterious Cosmic Object

Almost everyone believes that the stars seemingly jewels engraved in the black sky are merely shining and twinkling. But, aside from the scientists and scientists at heart, who would ever think that some of those bright stuffs up there are producing radio waves?
In full, they are called pulsating radio stars or simply pulsars. Composed entirely of neutrons, these extremely dense stars slow in their rotation rates as they age. They typically slow down at a very slow rate that they may already act as very accurate clocks! Usually described as rapidly spinning neutron stars, pulsars are considered as mysterious cosmic objects.
Pulsars are apparently the product of a supernova explosion. They are the leftover of the star that went supernova. The core collapsed and spun up. They carry enormous magnetic fields and angular momenta.
In 1964, the scintillation phenomenon was first observed and it was found out that the radio waves from very compact radio galaxies showed a characteristic rapid and irregular fluctuation of intensity. As 1967 stepped in, pulsars were discovered “by accident” by Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Anthony Hewish during a radio astronomy observing program designed to look for “twinkling” radio sources.
There were the earliest surprises about the pulsars. First, each pulse was associated with radio signals of continuously changing wavelength. Second, when timing the pulses, the truly staggering accuracy of the pulse rate became apparent.
The abovementioned surprise provided clues to the source. The first vital clue was the body emitting the pulses had to be extremely small. Its radius could not be larger than a few thousand kilometers. The reason is that a large body cannot emit a pulse of a radiation in a time shorter than the time shorter than the time required for light to travel across it. The second clue was given by the frequency distribution of the pulse, which had an important indication of predominantly hydrogen atoms.
Much effort has been expended in attempts to probe pulsars deeper. It is necessary to use a sensitive radio telescope works at meter wavelengths with the additional requirement that observations of the same areas of sky must be repeated with a recording system.
The cause why a pulsar emits radio-frequent pulses is not well understood, but it is though that the process has to do with the large magnetic field at the surface of the neutron star. The radio pulses apparently arise near the polar cap of the magnetic field and are beamed out like a lighthouse beacon. As the beacon sweeps across our position, the “pulse” is detected.
Pulsars can frighten people on Earth because of their effect. They are not dangerous to people. Though they may be responsible for some of the cosmic rays people experience on earth, their effect on anyone is small.
Although the field of astrophysics has not yet formulated the scientific explanation behind pulsars, the emission of radio pulses of pulsars is proven true and real with concrete evidences.


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