September 30, 2005

Speaker Illuminates Pulsars

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Several graduate students and faculty members were present yesterday for “Pulsars in Globular Clusters,” a lecture given by Dr. Paulo Freire, a world-renowned radio astronomer from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

The lecture, one in a weekly series organized by both the faculty and students in space sciences, was focused around Freire’s breakthrough research into millisecond pulsars (MSPs) and their effect on stellar evolution theories.

“Much of what we now know about millisecond pulsars violates laws of stellar evolution,” said Freire, who has been a leader in the field of MSP research since obtaining his Ph.D. at the University of Manchester in 1997. The insight that MSPs have given to evolutionary theories is one of the main reasons Freire and his colleagues have dedicated their research to their properties. It has also propelled him into the international academic spotlight.

For the past eight years, he has been a part of several leading research teams that have helped define this area of research. His accomplishments include helping discover numerous pulsars.

“Ten years ago, we thought there were hardly any MSPs, now we know there are at least thirty-one in the globular cluster Terzan 5 alone. May not seem like a lot to you, but for me, it is.”

Aside from insight into his own research, the lecture provided students with a unique opportunity to ask questions pertinent to their personal interests.

“[The lectures] allow for us to hear from many world-renowned astronomers, and we’re able to use them as resources while they’re here,” said Tanner Akgun grad.

Graduate students were not the only ones who benefited from Freire’s lecture.

Prof. Jim Cordes, astronomy, one of Cornell’s leading radio astronomers and the coordinator of Freire’s visit, explained how the lecture was beneficial to many different groups of students, as well as members of the faculty.

“These lectures are broad enough to interest many students, and at the same time specific enough to interest faculty who are researching areas directly related to this specific topic.”

Students who were not as knowledgeable of pulsars and global clusters were still impressed by Freire’s reputation and informative style.

“I don’t really know that much about millisecond pulsars, but I was impressed with his knowledge on the subject and his lecture style,” said Kelly McCune ’07.

Even for those completely unaware of pulsars and their properties, Freire was able to put them into perspective.

“Picture an object half a million times the earth’s size spinning 716 times a second. It’s pretty amazing,” Freire said.

Archived article by Nate Lowry