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Students astonished by stuttering star

Secondary school students in Australia have helped reveal weird, jittery behaviour in a pulsar called PSR J1717-4054. The results of their observations and of follow-up studies are published online in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS).

This intriguing behaviour made it a favourite in the PULSE@Parkes programme, in which secondary school students use the CSIRO Parkes telescope in eastern Australia to observe pulsars. Students observed the pulsar 85 times between 2008 and this year.

"When the students looked at it, it was generally on or off. But sometimes, when it was on, it seemed to flicker. This prompted us to observe it for longer and with higher time resolution so that we could see individual pulses," said CSIRO’s Dr Matthew Kerr, lead author of the new paper.

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Added by Flornes Yuen on 2014-10-07

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