Sunday, January 9, 2011

Jocelyn Bell Burnell--profile

Science Museum...

A photograph of Jocelyn Bell Burnell (born 1943) at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory at Cambridge University, taken for the Daily Herald newspaper in 1968. Jocelyn Bell studied physics at Glasgow University and entered Cambridge University as a graduate student, asisting Anthony Hewish with his research on quasars. In 1967, having analysed hundreds of metres of print-outs from a radiotelescope she had helped to construct, Bell noted signals that were too fast and regular to come from quasars. After ruling out 'little green men', she discovered the signals must come from pulsars, later identified with neutron stars. In 1974, Anthony Hewish and Sir Martin Ryle were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in physics with Hewish honoured for the discovery of pulsars. It is argued that Bell should have received or at least shared in the Prize.

In 1967, Jocelyn was a PhD student at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory in Cambridge. Her job was to analyse data from one of the telescopes for the characteristic twinkling of quasars. One day she noticed a ‘bit of scruff’ on the telescope’s charts and, rather than dismiss it as interference, decided to investigate further. It turned out to be a pulsed signal, always coming from the same patch of sky and repeating at regular intervals. For a short time, the Cambridge team had to consider the possibility that it was a signal from an alien civilisation - they jokingly dubbed it LGM-1, for Little Green Men.

1999 interview

Cool blog...Science Museum

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