Ben Stappers: The best clocks in the Universe, Pulsars

Ben Stappers: The best clocks in the Universe, Pulsars

Ben Stappers is a Professor of Astrophysics in the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics where he leads the Pulsars & Time Domain Astrophysics research group. His primary research interests are radio pulsars, neutron stars and rapid radio transients. He is a member of the European Pulsar Timing Array (EPTA) and international Pulsar Timing Array (IPTA) projects which combine large radio telescopes, including the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank, to precisely time the flashes from radio pulsars (the ultra-dense remnants of exploded stars) in an attempt to detect long wavelength gravitational waves. These waves are thought to have been generated by processes in the early Universe, either inflation, cosmic strings or binary supermassive blackholes have been proposed.

Talk: The best clocks in the Universe, Pulsars

The rapidly rotating and highly magnetised neutron stars known as pulsars are believed to be some of the best clocks in the Universe. We can measure the rate at which they spin to a precision which matches the best atomic clocks on Earth. This excellent precision means we can use them as powerful tools, but before we can do that we need to know exactly how the Earth moves through space and this means we need to know the mass of the moon and the other planets in the solar system very precisely.

Moreover we are able to search for any “missing” planets in the solar system and even look for planets around the pulsars themselves! I will demonstrate how we use pulsars to weight the moon and the planets in the solar system and also discuss recent searches for new planets.

Dot Talks, Mission Control Saturday 2019

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