Pulsar timing observations allow a new way to estimate planet masses
An international research team led by David Champion, now at Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, with researchers from Australia, Germany, the U.S., UK and Canada has come up with a new way to weigh the planets in our Solar System, using radio signals from pulsars. Data from a set of four pulsars have been used to weigh Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn with their moons and rings. The new measurement technique is sensitive to just 0.003% of the mass of the Earth, and one ten-millionth of Jupiter's mass (corresponding to a mass difference of two hundred thousand million million tonnes).
August 10, 2010 Einstein@Home "citizen scientists'' in the U.S.A. and Germany discover a new pulsar in Arecibo telescope data
Idle computers are the astronomers' playground: Three citizen scientists - a German and an American couple - have discovered a new radio pulsar hidden in data gathered by the Arecibo Observatory. This is the first deep-space discovery by Einstein@Home, which uses donated time from the home and office computers of 250,000 volunteers from 192 different countries. The citizens credited with the discovery are Chris and Helen Colvin, of Ames, Iowa and Daniel Gebhardt, of Universität Mainz, Musikinformatik, Germany. Their computers, along with 500,000 others from around the world, analyze data for Einstein@Home (on average, donors contribute about two computers each).
Correcting for rotational instabilities of pulsars, the most precise clocks in the Universe
An international team of astronomers, including Michael Kramer from the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie (Bonn, Germany) has studied the behaviour of natural cosmic clocks and discovered a way to potentially turn them into the best time keepers in the Universe. The scientists made their breakthrough using decade-long observations from the 76-m Lovell radio telescope at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory to track the radio signals of an extreme type of star known as a pulsars. This new understanding of pulsar spin-down could improve the chances to use the fastest spinning pulsars in order to make the first direct detection of ripples, known as gravitational waves, in the fabric of space time.