Pulsed Oddity

Asleep at the virtual wheel, I somehow missed this week’s announcement of winners for the Second NRAO/AUI Radio Astronomy Image Contest. The above image represents one of the more puzzling choices for inclusion among the honorees.

I mean, Iike the idea of a conceptual graphic rather than the typical “pretty picture”: the image above tells a story, admirably but perhaps unclearly. Being only marginally acquainted with Shapiro delays, I correctly guessed that the abscissa represents time (the cartoon above the data plot helped), but what’s up with the ordinate? It’s a pulsar, so I’m guessing timing, but would it hurt to tell us?

Plus, the cartoon in the middle gets a little confusing. The ellipses suggest that we’re seeing the system from an oblique angle, but the third image from the left makes the beam of light (which feels as though it’s coming out of the plane of the image) appear to be in the plane of the orbits. That really threw me off.

Anyway, eight winners appear to have been selected from 13 entries. Not bad odds. I might have to enter next year…

And now I’m running late for a dinner. So I’ll sign off for now.