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2004 Robinson Lecture

Friday 26 November 2004
19:30 The Studio Theatre, The Market Place, Armagh

"Tick, Tick, Tick Pulsating Star,
How We Wonder What You Are!"

Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell

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The 2004 Robinson Lecture will be held on Friday, 26th November at 7.30 p.m. in The Studio Theatre, The Market Place, Armagh. The Robinson Lecture is held biennially in memory of the founder of the Armagh Observatory, Archbishop Richard Robinson. The guest Lecturer is Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell, former Dean of Science at the University of Bath and now Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford. The lecture is entitled "Tick, Tick, Tick Pulsating Star, How We Wonder What You Are!"

Born in Northern Ireland, Professor Bell Burnell graduated in 1965 with a B.Sc. in Physics from the University of Glasgow, followed by a Ph.D. in Radio Astronomy from the University of Cambridge in 1969. While working as a research student on quasars, Jocelyn discovered a wholly new type of celestial object -- pulsars -- with the 4.5-acre radio telescope that she helped to construct. In the months following this initial discovery, Jocelyn went on to find three more of these pulsating radio sources, which were later identified as neutron stars rotating at up to a few hundred times per second. The discovery of pulsars was contained in an appendix to her doctoral thesis.

"Pulsars are some of the most amazing objects in the Galaxy," commented Professor Bell Burnell, "And their discovery took the astronomical community by surprise. Like lighthouses in the sky they may be used one day as navigation beacons for interstellar travel. They have stretched our understanding of the behaviour of matter, and serve as very accurate clocks with which to check out Einstein's theory of relativity."

Professor Bell Burnell will outline the discovery and characteristics of pulsars in a non-technical manner and bring us right up to date with current research on these puzzling objects. A typical pulsar contains slightly more matter than the Sun within a sphere of radius 10km. These weird neutron stars have extreme electrical, magnetic and gravitational fields. Some pulsars have even been discovered to have planetary-sized bodies orbiting them, but why this should be so -- considering that pulsars are believed to be born from catastrophic supernova explosions -- remains an enigma.

Jocelyn held the post of Professor of Physics at the Open University from 1991 until 1999 and was subsequently Dean of Science at the University of Bath until September 2004. She is also the immediate past President of the Royal Astronomical Society. Professor Antony Hewish, Jocelyn's Ph.D. supervisor, received a half share in the 1974 Nobel Prize for Physics for his role in the discovery of pulsars. The late Fred Hoyle argued that Jocelyn should have received a share of the Prize.

For free tickets for this event, contact Mrs Aileen McKee at the Armagh Observatory, Tel.: 028-3752-2928; Fax: 028-3752-7174;
or e-mail: ambnarm.ac.uk.

Professor Bell Burnell will be available for interview on Friday 26th November.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG.
Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; jmfarm.ac.uk

See also: 2004 Robinson Schools Lecture


Last Revised: 2004 October 13th
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