West Virginia University will continue its celebration of the International Year of Astronomy with a Feb. 18 talk onPulsars: Timekeepers of the Cosmos.

Maura McLaughlin , an assistant professor of physics at WVU , will present her lecture at 7:30 p.m. in 260 Hodges Hall. The talk is free and open to the public.

Pulsars are neutron stars formed in supernova explosions after the collapse of massive evolved stars. These objects are more massive than the sun and can spin more than 700 times a second. They have extremely high magnetic fields, over a trillion times that of the Earth. These properties make them energetic sources of radio waves, which are beamed along their magnetic axes.

Apulseof radio emission is detected once every pulsar rotation period, in a similar manner to a lighthouse. The rotation periods of pulsars can be measured precisely, making thesecosmic clocksexcellent laboratories for testing general relativity, learning about binary orbits and measuring stellar velocities.

In her talk, McLaughlin will give an overview of pulsars and their properties and describe several recent highlights of pulsar research. She will explain how the study of pulsars has changed humansview of the universe and the physical laws governing it as well as the future of research in this field.

McLaughlin joined the WVU Department of Physics in 2006 and has an adjunct appointment at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank. Her research mainly involves studies of neutron stars, compact remnants of massive stars. She studies these stars with X-ray and gamma-ray satellites and with some of the largest radio telescopes in the world. She was recently awarded a Sloan Fellowship for her research.

She and her husband, Duncan Lorimer, also an assistant professor of physics at WVU , were part of a team of researchers who discovered the only known double-pulsar system. That find led McLaughlin and colleagues last summer to confirm Einsteins prediction that in a strong gravitational field, an objects spin axis should slowly change direction as it orbits around its companion.

Before coming to WVU , McLaughlin spent five years working at the University of Manchester in England, first on National Science Foundation Distinguished Research Fellowship and then on a University Research Fellowship.

She earned a bachelors degree from Penn State University in 1994 and a doctorate from Cornell University in 2001.

The International Year of Astronomy lecture series was organized by the WVU Astronomy Club in collaboration with the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Physics and the West Virginia Space Grant Consortium.

Related press release: http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/news/page/7419/

More on the Net: http://iya.wvu.edu/