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17th of January 2023
Little Green Telescopes
When the first pulsar was discovered at Cambridge in the 1960s, astronomers struggled to find an explanation for the metronome-like regularity of the pulses. For a short time the source was dubbed "LGM" for Little Green Men, as the precise 1.34-second periodicity of the pulses seemed more like a artificial beacon than any natural astrophysical phenomenon. The discovery of other pulsars, with other periods, in other parts of the sky, quickly convinced scientists that these were not extraterrestrial signals, with the realisation that pulsars were in fact rapidly rotating neutron stars. So what to make of the Little Green Telescopes above? Are these for transmitting signals to Little Green Men? No, these are elements of the ASKAP array, lit up at night for the filming of the White Spark production Beyond the Milky Way. ASKAP has successfully discovered a pulsar, as a highly polarised, steep spectrum radio source, which was subsequently confirmed by timing observations at Parkes to have a period of 2.77 milliseconds. And ASKAP's wide field of view and good sensitivity means it is well-placed to contribute to on-going searches for extraterrestrial intelligence. (Image credit: Chris Brayton)

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