By Geoff McNamara
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Extra info for Clocks in the Sky - The Story of Pulsars (SPBPA)
Comparing the arrangements of the lines with those in tables created from observations of other stars revealed nothing. Could the star contain previously unknown elements? What was going on? It took Schmidt four months to discover the solution. But to understand Schmidt's insight we need to take a minor astronomical detour. It had been known for decades that the arrangement of spectral lines in the spectrum of a star or galaxy revealed not only its composition, but also its velocity. Light behaves in a similar way to sound when it comes to motion.
It was hoped that the newly completed telescope would begin its career with some major discovery, and quasars held the promise of something big. Bolton and his colleagues weren't going to let such a minor restriction as a safety protocol get in the way of a potentially important astronomical discovery. Not only did they remove the telescope's safety devices, but Bolton also took a grinder to the telescope, cutting away some of the housings of the bearings allowing the dish to tilt another degree closer to the horizon.
Science doesn't operate this way, however: it is a delicate balance of the urgency to get into the scientific press to gain priority and the need for verification. It was this last factor that was to stir the first controversy surrounding Hewish and Bell's discovery. In this case, they had discovered something new, but now they had to either explain it or show it was real. The difficulty with this new pulsing radio source was its contradictions. The rapid pulses meant the source had to be small.
Clocks in the Sky - The Story of Pulsars (SPBPA) by Geoff McNamara