Binary Pulsars and Relativistic Gravity 

Presented by:

Joseph H. Taylor
McDonnell Chair in Physics
Princeton University
Nobel Prize in Physics in 1993

Friday, April 16, 2004 - 8:00 p.m.
104 Keller Building - Penn State University - University Park, PA

         Joseph H. Taylor is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Physics at Princeton University. Educated at Haverford College (BA in Physics, 1963) and Harvard University (PhD in Astronomy, 1968), he taught at the University of Massachussetts, Amherst, from 1969 to 1980. He moved to Princeton in 1981, and served as its Dean of the Faculty from 1997 to 2003. In 1974 Taylor and a graduate student, Russell Hulse, discovered the first known pulsar in a binary system. For this discovery and its later contributions to the understanding of gravity, they were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1993.

 Binary Pulsars and Relativistic Gravity

        Pulsars are neutron stars--the extremely dense, strongly magnetized, rapidly spinning remnants of supernova explosions. They also appear to be nature's most precise clocks. Discovery of the first orbiting pulsar opened a new subfield of radio astronomy, in which the relativistic nature of gravity is tested through precise comparisons of "pulsar time" with atomic time on Earth. Among other results, the experiments have demonstrated the existence of gravitational waves, as predicted by Einstein's theory of gravity.

Timing Binary Pulsars

        Some pulsars exhibit long-term timing stability comparable with that of the very best atomic clocks. This fact has made possible a variety of experiments that probe the physics of neutron star interiors and the fundamental nature of gravity.

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