Jodrell Bank Observatory: Pulsar Research
PULSAR

The Sounds of Pulsars


What is a pulsar?

A pulsar is a highly magnetised neutron star, with a radius of 10-15 km, having somewhat greater mass than the Sun which has a radius of approximately 1 million km. Radiation is beamed out along the magnetic poles and pulses of radiation are received as the beam crosses the Earth, in the same manner as the beam from a lighthouse causes flashes. Being enormous cosmic flywheels with a tick attached, they make some of the best clocks known to mankind.

These sounds directly correspond to the radio-waves emitted by the brightest pulsars in the sky as received by some of the largest radio telescopes in the world. To listen to the pulses of a radio pulsar, click on its arrow icon.


PSR B0329+54


This pulsar is a typical, normal pulsar, rotating with a period of 0.714519 seconds, i.e. close to 1.40 rotations/sec.

PSR B0833-45, The Vela Pulsar


This pulsar lies near the centre of the Vela supernova remnant, which is the debris of the explosion of a massive star about 10,000 years ago. The pulsar is the collapsed core of this star, rotating with a period of 89 milliseconds or about 11 times a second.

PSR B0531+21, The Crab Pulsar


This is the youngest known pulsar and lies at the centre of the Crab Nebula, the supernova remnant of its birth explosion, which was witnessed by Europeans and Chinese in the year 1054 A.D. as a day-time light in the sky. The pulsar rotates about 30 times a second.

PSR J0437-4715


This is a recently discovered millisecond pulsar, an old pulsar which has been spun up by the accretion of material from a binary companion star as it expands in its red giant phase. The accretion process results in orbital angular momentum of the companion star being converted to rotational angular momentum of the neutron star, which is now rotating about 174 times a second.

PSR B1937+21


This is the second fastest known pulsar, rotating with a period of 0.00155780644887275 seconds, or about 642 times a second. The surface of this star is moving at about 1/7 of the velocity of light and illustrates the enormous gravitational forces which prevent it flying apart due to the immense centrifugal forces. The fastest-rotating pulsar is PSR J1748-2446ad, which rotates about 10% faster at 716 times a second.

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Last modified: June 7 2001