Perspective

The past, present and future of pulsars

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Abstract

On the 50th anniversary of the accidental discovery of pulsars (pulsating radio stars, also known as neutron stars) I reflect on the process of their detection and how our understanding of these stars gradually grew. Fifty years on, we have a much better (but still incomplete) understanding of these extreme objects, which I summarize here. The study of pulsars is advancing several areas of fundamental physics, including general relativity, particle physics, condensed-matter physics, and radiation processes in extreme electric and magnetic fields. New observational facilities coming online in the radio regime (such as the Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope and the Square Kilometre Array precursors) will revolutionize the search for pulsars by accessing thousands more, thus ushering in a new era of discovery for the field.

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Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Physics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

    • Jocelyn Bell Burnell

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Competing interests

The author declares no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jocelyn Bell Burnell.