“Science doesn’t always go forwards. It’s a bit like doing a Rubik’s cube. You sometimes have to make more of a mess with a Rubik’s cube before you can get it to go right.” -Jocelyn Bell-Burnell
Observations that surprise us, of a phenomenon we weren’t expecting and don’t have an explanation for, are some of the most exciting things we can encounter in astronomy. In 1967, regularly pulsing radio sources, discovered without any expectation, provided exactly that. It wasn’t noise; it was definitely a robust, repeatable observation; so what was it?
While our imaginations might have run to aliens initially, further developments quickly showed that this was a ball of rapidly rotating neutrons, more massive than even the Sun but only a few kilometers in diameter. These pulsars, as they’re now know, are ubiquitous and come about from the corpses of core-collapse supernova. Could this be a harbinger of what we can expect from the ‘alien megastructure’ controversy?