Pulsars, born after the splendid explosion of massive stars, are the most compact objects in the visible universe. Sitting on Earth, we receive regular pulses of light from pulsars. The accuracy of the period between pulses can sometimes rival that of an atomic clock. Pulsar studies have won two Nobel one for their discovery, and one for the first indirect evidence of gravitational waves. In this talk, I will explain how the compact nature and the excellent periodicity of pulses help make previously difficult studies feasible. Not only can these pulses show signs of gravitational waves, but they can also reveal the mysteries of small scale structures in the universe by facilitating natural “telescope arrays” several times the Sun–Earth separation.
Dongzi Li is a PhD student in the UofT Physics department. She uses pulsars as a probe, and clustered interstellar electrons as giant lenses, to study the magnetic structures in the interstellar medium. She whistles when she walks. She still dreams to be a kung fu master when she’s grown up.