51 years ago today, the first Pulsar was discovered!
Pulsars are massive, rotating, neutron stars from the earliest stages of the universe. They shoot out two massive beams of electromagnetic radiation which pass by the Earth like a lighthouse’s ray, creating the appearance of a regular periodic ‘pulse’. When first discovered, they were suspected by some to be communications from extraterrestrial intelligences. Once we figure out the truth, they were still exciting – their unusual properties make them ideal testing grounds for novel astronomical observation methods. Pulsars were involved in our first detection of gravitational radiation and our first direct observation of exoplanets.