Jocelyn (Susan) Bell Burnell Term Paper

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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


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. Instead of remaining constant over a period of years or longer , these pulsar

emissions consist of brier pulses of regularity. The pulses can last from a period of a few

milliseconds to as long as several seconds. Pulsars are also powerful electric generators, that are

capable of accelerating charged particles to energies of a trillion volts.

On account of Bell Burnell’s discovery of the pulsars , astronomers have been able to

lead further investigations of pulsars. Also , they are able to have a better understanding of the

Milky Way Galaxy.


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