One night in 1967, a pair of astronomers, Jocelyn Bell and Antony Hewish, detected a radio signal in an observatory in the UK.

It was one of the strangest things ever found. How could they explain it? Every 1.337302088331 seconds it pulsed with precision rivaling modern technology.

The astronomers were astounded. It didn’t seem like a natural phenomenon and we had no way to explain such a beacon’s origins.

In homage to the obvious answer the signal’s origin was dubbed LGM-1.

“Little Green Men”.

It was later found to be a whole new type of star: a pulsar. A stellar object that emits beacons with such regularity they’re used as clocks. The story is familiar though: our imagination fails to live up to the reality that is the cosmos.

Somehow the universe never ceases to surprise and amaze us.

*Also before I’m asked, yes: Joy Division did use an image of the radio signals - so there’s a little pop history for you too.


About that Alien Megastructure around  KIC 8462852…

Scientists shocked the world this week with the announcement of an unusual discovery by the Kepler program.   Tabetha Boyajian of Yale University led a team watching a star (KIC 8462852) around 1500 light years from Earth whose unusual light patterns defy current understanding.  Several hypotheses have been offered, including the possibility that indeed, a giant alien megastructure was found.  But it isn’t the first time scientists found unusual bodies deep in space.

In 1967 astronomer Jocelyn Burnell Bell found an unusual object blinking in a dark corner of the sky in the constellation Vulpecula. With a period of 1.3373 seconds and a pulse width of 0.04 second it was the first radio pulsar discovered, although Bell and her Ph.D. advisor astronomer Antony Hewish had no idea what exactly they were seeing. Given the regularity of the signal, they briefly (and mostly jokingly) considered the possibility that they had stumbled upon evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligence, and dubbed it LGM1, for Little Green Men 1. According to Bell:

We did not really believe that we had picked up signals from another civilization, but obviously the idea had crossed our minds and we had no proof that it was an entirely natural radio emission. It is an interesting problem - if one thinks one may have detected life elsewhere in the universe how does one announce the results responsibly? Who does one tell first?

Thomas Gold and Franco Pacini suggested that pulsars were in fact pulsating neutron stars, confirmed with the discovery of a second pulsar in the Crab Nebula. The next year in March 1968, The Daily Telegraph was first to publish the new word:

An entirely novel kind of star came to light on Aug. 6 last year and was referred to, by astronomers, as LGM (Little Green Men). Now it is thought to be a novel type between a white dwarf and a neutron [sic]. The name Pulsar is likely to be given to it. Dr. A. Hewish told me yesterday: “… I am sure that today every radio telescope is looking at the Pulsars.”

The word itself was a combination of pulsating and star, a very literal and descriptive explanation of what scientists were seeing. Today that first pulsar is known variously as CP 1919, PSR B1919+21 and PSR J1921+2153.

Pulsars are so unique that NASA used them as intergalactic locators, drawing a map on the Pioneer plaques to allow extra-terrestrial intelligences to find planet Earth.

In 1974 Antony Hewish became the first astronomer to win a Nobel Prize in Physics, with a bit of controversy surrounding the award as Bell (who actually discovered the pulsar) was not co-awarded the prize.

Perhaps Tabetha Boyajian has found the first concrete evidence of extraterrestrial life.  Let’s hope scientists can devote more resources to study this unusual star.

All images used under CC 3.0 license.

Over Analytical

I think he falls for my words
and how I feel so deeply
about everything, my over
analytical nature and my

I think, if I was within his grasp,
he wouldn’t fall because pain
and heartache isn’t all that beautiful
when you’re waking up to it every

I think that I intrigue him
and I’m a puzzle that he
wishes to piece together;
a package of problems
that he wishes to know
that final solution to.

The brain is what fascinates him
and I fear that is exactly the reason
why he finds me so fascinating.
I’m not sure it would ever be love,
just a deep fascination. 

Or maybe I am just being
over analytical again.

| c.l.s | 2014