skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Multiwavelength Polarization of Rotation-powered Pulsars

Abstract

Polarization measurements provide strong constraints on models for emission from rotation-powered pulsars. We present multiwavelength polarization predictions showing that measurements over a range of frequencies can be particularly important for constraining the emission location, radiation mechanisms, and system geometry. The results assume a generic model for emission from the outer magnetosphere and current sheet in which optical to hard X-ray emission is produced by synchrotron radiation (SR) from electron–positron pairs and γ -ray emission is produced by curvature radiation (CR) or SR from accelerating primary electrons. The magnetic field structure of a force-free magnetosphere is assumed and the phase-resolved and phase-averaged polarization is calculated in the frame of an inertial observer. We find that large position angle (PA) swings and deep depolarization dips occur during the light-curve peaks in all energy bands. For synchrotron emission, the polarization characteristics are strongly dependent on photon emission radius with larger, nearly 180°, PA swings for emission outside the light cylinder (LC) as the line of sight crosses the current sheet. The phase-averaged polarization degree for SR is less that 10% and around 20% for emission starting inside and outside the LC, respectively, while the polarization degree for CR is much larger, up tomore » 40%–60%. Observing a sharp increase in polarization degree and a change in PA at the transition between X-ray and γ -ray spectral components would indicate that CR is the γ -ray emission mechanism.« less

Authors:
;  [1]
  1. Astrophysics Science Division, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771 (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22663627
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal; Journal Volume: 840; Journal Issue: 2; Other Information: Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; DEPOLARIZATION; FORECASTING; GAMMA RADIATION; HARD X RADIATION; LIMITING VALUES; MAGNETIC FIELDS; PHOTON EMISSION; PHOTONS; POLARIZATION; POSITRONS; PULSARS; RELATIVISTIC RANGE; SYNCHROTRON RADIATION; VISIBLE RADIATION

Citation Formats

Harding, Alice K., and Kalapotharakos, Constantinos. Multiwavelength Polarization of Rotation-powered Pulsars. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/AA6EAD.
Harding, Alice K., & Kalapotharakos, Constantinos. Multiwavelength Polarization of Rotation-powered Pulsars. United States. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/AA6EAD.
Harding, Alice K., and Kalapotharakos, Constantinos. Wed . "Multiwavelength Polarization of Rotation-powered Pulsars". United States. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/AA6EAD.
@article{osti_22663627,
title = {Multiwavelength Polarization of Rotation-powered Pulsars},
author = {Harding, Alice K. and Kalapotharakos, Constantinos},
abstractNote = {Polarization measurements provide strong constraints on models for emission from rotation-powered pulsars. We present multiwavelength polarization predictions showing that measurements over a range of frequencies can be particularly important for constraining the emission location, radiation mechanisms, and system geometry. The results assume a generic model for emission from the outer magnetosphere and current sheet in which optical to hard X-ray emission is produced by synchrotron radiation (SR) from electron–positron pairs and γ -ray emission is produced by curvature radiation (CR) or SR from accelerating primary electrons. The magnetic field structure of a force-free magnetosphere is assumed and the phase-resolved and phase-averaged polarization is calculated in the frame of an inertial observer. We find that large position angle (PA) swings and deep depolarization dips occur during the light-curve peaks in all energy bands. For synchrotron emission, the polarization characteristics are strongly dependent on photon emission radius with larger, nearly 180°, PA swings for emission outside the light cylinder (LC) as the line of sight crosses the current sheet. The phase-averaged polarization degree for SR is less that 10% and around 20% for emission starting inside and outside the LC, respectively, while the polarization degree for CR is much larger, up to 40%–60%. Observing a sharp increase in polarization degree and a change in PA at the transition between X-ray and γ -ray spectral components would indicate that CR is the γ -ray emission mechanism.},
doi = {10.3847/1538-4357/AA6EAD},
journal = {Astrophysical Journal},
number = 2,
volume = 840,
place = {United States},
year = {Wed May 10 00:00:00 EDT 2017},
month = {Wed May 10 00:00:00 EDT 2017}
}
  • The heating associated with the deposition of {gamma}-rays in an accretion disk is proposed as a mechanism to facilitate the transformation of a low-mass X-ray binary to the radio millisecond pulsar (MSP) phase. The {gamma}-ray emission produced in the outer gap accelerator in the pulsar magnetosphere likely irradiates the surrounding disk, resulting in its heating and the possible escape of matter from the system. We apply the model to PSR J1023+0038, which has recently been discovered as a newly born rotation-powered MSP. The predicted {gamma}-ray luminosity {approx}6 x 10{sup 34} erg s{sup -1} can be sufficient to explain the disappearancemore » of the truncated disk existing during the 8 month-2 yr period prior to the 2002 observations of J1023+0038 and the energy input required for the anomalously bright optical emission of its companion star.« less
  • We present a statistical analysis of the X-ray luminosity of rotation-powered pulsars and their surrounding nebulae using the sample of Kargaltsev and Pavlov, and we complement this with an analysis of the {gamma}-ray emission of Fermi-detected pulsars. We report a strong trend in the efficiency with which spin-down power is converted to X-ray and {gamma}-ray emission with characteristic age: young pulsars and their surrounding nebulae are efficient X-ray emitters, whereas in contrast old pulsars are efficient {gamma}-ray emitters. We divided the X-ray sample in a young ({tau}{sub c} < 1.7 x 10{sup 4} yr) and old sample and used linearmore » regression to search for correlations between the logarithm of the X-ray and {gamma}-ray luminosities and the logarithms of the periods and period derivatives. The X-ray emission from young pulsars and their nebulae are both consistent with L{sub X}{proportional_to} P-dot{sup 3}/P{sup 6}. For old pulsars and their nebulae the X-ray luminosity is consistent with a more or less constant efficiency {eta}{identical_to}L{sub X}/ E-dot{sub rot}{approx}8x10{sup -5}. For the {gamma}-ray luminosity we confirm that L{sub {gamma}} {proportional_to} {radical}E-dot{sub rot}. We discuss these findings in the context of pair production inside pulsar magnetospheres and the striped wind model. We suggest that the striped wind model may explain the similarity between the X-ray properties of the pulsar wind nebulae and the pulsars themselves, which according to the striped wind model may both find their origin outside the light cylinder, in the pulsar wind zone.« less
  • The Fermi Large Area Telescope has revealed that rotation powered millisecond pulsars (MSPs) are a major contributor to the Galactic {gamma}-ray source population. Such pulsars may also be important in modeling the quiescent state of several low-mass X-ray binaries (LMXBs), where optical observations of the companion star suggest the possible existence of rotation powered MSPs. To understand the observational properties of the different evolutionary stages of MSPs, the X-ray and {gamma}-ray emissions associated with the outer gap model are investigated. For rotation powered MSPs, the size of the outer gap and the properties of the high-energy emission are controlled bymore » either the photon-photon pair-creation process or magnetic pair-creation process near the surface. For these pulsars, we find that the outer gap model controlled by the magnetic pair-creation process is preferable in explaining the possible correlations between the {gamma}-ray luminosity or non-thermal X-ray luminosity versus the spin-down power. For the accreting MSPs in quiescent LMXBs, the thermal X-ray emission at the neutron star (NS) surface resulting from deep crustal heating can control the conditions in the outer gap. We argue that the optical modulation observed in the quiescent state of several LMXBs originates from the irradiation of the donor star by {gamma}-rays from the outer gap. In these systems, the irradiation luminosity required for the optical modulation of the source such as SAX J1808.4-3658 can be achieved for a NS of high mass. Finally, we discuss the high-energy emission associated with an intra-binary shock in black widow systems, e.g., PSR B1957+20.« less
  • Synchrotron radiation is widely considered to be the origin of the pulsed non-thermal emissions from rotation-powered pulsars in optical and X-ray bands. In this paper, we study the synchrotron radiation emitted by the created electron and positron pairs in the pulsar magnetosphere to constrain the energy conversion efficiency from the Poynting flux to the particle energy flux. We model two pair creation processes, two-photon collision, which efficiently works in young γ -ray pulsars (≲10{sup 6} year), and magnetic pair creation, which is the dominant process to supply pairs in old pulsars (≳10{sup 6} year). Using the analytical model, we derivemore » the maximum synchrotron luminosity as a function of the energy conversion efficiency. From the comparison with observations, we find that the energy conversion efficiency to the accelerated particles should be an order of unity in the magnetosphere, even though we make a number of the optimistic assumptions to enlarge the synchrotron luminosity. In order to explain the luminosity of the non-thermal X-ray/optical emission from pulsars with low spin-down luminosity L {sub sd} ≲ 10{sup 34} erg s{sup −1}, non-dipole magnetic field components should be dominant at the emission region. For the γ -ray pulsars with L {sub sd} ≲ 10{sup 35} erg s{sup −1}, observed γ -ray to X-ray and optical flux ratios are much higher than the flux ratio between curvature and the synchrotron radiations. We discuss some possibilities such as the coexistence of multiple accelerators in the magnetosphere as suggested from the recent numerical simulation results. The obtained maximum luminosity would be useful to select observational targets in X-ray and optical bands.« less