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.
Flashes in the radio sky
The Lovell Telescope spends a large part of its time studying pulsars, some of the most extreme objects in the Universe. They have masses similar to our Sun, but are only 20 km across and can rotate at up to 700 times a second. They have extremely strong magnetic fields, and as they spin, their magnetic axes can sweep across the Earth and we detect a repeating flash of radio emission like a cosmic lighthouse. Ben will discuss pulsars and other transient phenomena in the radio sky including the mysterious fast radio bursts – brief flashes of radio waves coming from the distant Universe.