How the US Air Force failed to win the Nobel prize…
I was at the 40 Years of Pulsars conference this week.
Most interesting, with lots of good reviews and new discoveries.
Sounds like anomalous x-ray pulsars and some low mass x-ray binaries are revealing their secrets, and lots of very interesting binary millisecond pulsars in the pipeline – be fun to see what is going on there when the followup observations are done – soon as Green Bank Telescope and Arecibo are back on line.
But, the surprise of the meeting came with the last invited talk – before Joe Taylor’s “summary” talk.
A gentleman named Charles Schisler stood to speak, introduced by Jocelyn Bell herself, he was a USAF officer, a bombardier/navigator on B-47 bombers after WWII and then stayed for a 20 year career. He finished at Clear USAFB Alaska in 1967, home of the 13th and 213th Space Warning Squadrons. Part of the DEW line of early warning stations in the arctic back then.
Google Map satellite image
He was on radar duty, looking for ICBMs coming over the pole or pacific, with three ~ 50m antennae doing double sweeps at 420MHz covering 120 degrees in RA and 10 degrees in DEC with 5 seconds intervals.
He noticed in the upper sweep (ie not coming over the horizon) a fluctuating signal, which was fixed in RA, and logged it – this was summer of 1967.
The next day the signal was there again, but 4 minutes early, as a former navigator he recognised sidereal drift and figured he had a celestial source.
He went and looked up the sky position, and found it was in Taurus – the Crab Nebula.
He kept looking and found several sources, some of which were known bright 3C sources, but some of which were unknown and “fluctuating” or “pulsating”.
He asked his superiors what to do, it was not “in their mission”, so the sources were noted as background and they kept looking for high proper motion sources. Fortunately never found any.
Then they received the early 1968 issues of Nature, realised what they had been seeing, some of the brightest pulsars in the northern hemisphere – which Mr Schisler confirmed a decade later when he bought M&T77 and checked The List.
Now, Joe mentioned in the discussion afterwards, and others have mentioned this, that the DEWs had seen pulsars – fluctuating new celestial sources as early as 1964 for the Thule stations.
But, it was all anecdotal. Schisler kept logs and he still has them, neat handwritten time and location logs with annotation on strength and nature of the source.
This is for real, Dick Manchester checked the numbers, this guy discovered pulsars several months before Jocelyn, and took notes.
But, the information, which reveals the DEW radar capabilities was classified.
There is a webcast for friday pm session through the conference website.
Schisler is in the friday afternoon session, which hopefully this link will take you directly back to, they seem to have some dynamic pages. Schisler starts speaking just before 3h 8m into the session.
Listen to it – it is 20-30 minutes of amazing history.
Ok, link above was dynamic, as I feared: try this one
Found by googling as in the comments
PS: Bob put up a more detailed account of Schisler’s talk on the conf blog (which amazingly blogger shows as being written before Schisler’s talk!