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Jocelyn Bell Burnell

BELL BURNELL, Jocelyn Susan, British astronomer, b-1943. The discoverer of pulsars in 1967. After building a radio telescope at Cambridge, she began to track quasars (whilst still a research student working for Anthony Hewish). A radio-source was found, with an unusually regular signal. Jocelyn noted a rapid set of pulses exactly 1.337 seconds apart. Within weeks she had found other such signals. They are pulsating radio stars (Pulsars). Now hundreds are known, with varying periods of pulse. Possibly they are neutron stars, small but powerful and spinning rapidly which causes pulsed radio-signals. The detection work was done with Hewish and other colleagues. Jocelyn married another astrophysicist, whilst in graduate school, but they divorced in 1989. The discovery of pulsars was early in her career, she did not share in the Nobel Prize with Hewish and Ryle in 1974. This has been a matter of considerable controversy. Burnell was her married name, Bell was her maiden name.


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