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1 Introduction and Overview

Pulsars - rapidly rotating highly magnetised neutron stars - have resulted in many applications in physics and astronomy. Striking examples include the confirmation of the existence of gravitational radiation [314Jump To The Next Citation Point] as predicted by general relativity [312Jump To The Next Citation Point313Jump To The Next Citation Point], the first detection of an extra-solar planetary system [346Jump To The Next Citation Point244Jump To The Next Citation Point] and the discovery of the first double-pulsar binary system [44Jump To The Next Citation Point198Jump To The Next Citation Point]. The diverse zoo of radio pulsars currently known is summarized in Figure 1View Image.
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Figure 1: Venn diagram showing the numbers and locations of the various types of radio pulsars known as of January 2005. The large and small Magellanic clouds are denoted by LMC and SMC.
Pulsar research has proceeded at a rapid pace since the first two versions of this article [179Jump To The Next Citation Point180Jump To The Next Citation Point]. Surveys mostly with the Parkes radio telescope [259Jump To The Next Citation Point], but also at Green Bank [232Jump To The Next Citation Point], Arecibo [228] and the Giant Metre Wave Radio Telescope [231Jump To The Next Citation Point] have more than doubled the number of pulsars known back in 1997. The most exciting new results and discoveries from these searches are discussed in this updated review.

We begin in Section 2 with an overview of the pulsar phenomenon, the key observed population properties, the origin and evolution of pulsars and the main search strategies. In Section 3, we review present understanding in pulsar demography, discussing selection effects and their correction techniques. This leads to empirical estimates of the total number of normal and millisecond pulsars (see Section 3.3) and relativistic binaries (see Section 3.4) in the Galaxy and has implications for the detection of gravitational radiation from coalescing neutron star binaries which these systems are the progenitors of. Our review of pulsar timing in Section 4 covers the basic techniques (see Section 4.2), timing stability (see Section 4.3), binary pulsars (see Section 4.4), and using pulsars as sensitive detectors of long-period gravitational waves (see Section 4.5). We conclude with a brief outlook to the future in Section 5. Up-to-date tables of parameters of binary and millisecond pulsars are included in Appendix A.


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