The Discovery of Extraterrestrial Worlds
Spinning wildly, with hundreds of revolutions per second, is the millisecond pulsar PSR B1257 + 12. Not the most glamorous-sounding object in the known universe. Yet any millisecond pulsar has led an extraordinary life. Its first breath is taken in the multi-billion-degree plasma generated in the heart of a collapsing star. As the star falls apart, the core is crushed into a fast-spinning ball of neutrons, iron and elementary particles. This is a pulsar, a spinning neutron star. The pulsar generates beams of electromagnetic radiation that sweep outwards from its magnetic poles, scanning surrounding space like the silent beams of a distant lighthouse.