The polarization of drifting subpulses
Astronomical Institute “Anton Pannekoek”, University of Amsterdam, Kruislaan 403, 1098 SJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands e-mail: Russell.Edwards@csiro.au
Accepted: 12 July 2004
Using new techniques based on the polarimetric fluctuation spectrum, the fluctuation behaviour of the polarization of individual pulses is examined in three pulsars that show drifting subpulses, allowing various aspects of the fluctuations to be quantified for the first time. Of the three pulsars studied, only PSR B0809+74 shows behaviour completely consistent with the superposition of orthogonal polarization modes (OPMs), and this only at 328 MHz and in superposition with an apparently randomly polarized component. The observed periodic pattern is decomposed into the sum of two orthogonally polarized, out-of-phase drift patterns, one of which shows a dramatic jump in subpulse phase near the leading edge of the pulse window, which probably relates to the phase jump earlier reported in total intensity at 1380 MHz. For PSR B0320+39 and PSR B0818-13, considerable periodic fluctuations away from OPM orientations are seen, a condition that also occurs in the trailing half of the pulse in PSR B0809+74 at 1380 MHz. In some cases the deviation is so strong that the periodic locus of the polarization vector in the Poincaré sphere is almost circular, in contrast to the strictly colinear states of superposed OPMs. Several possibilities are discussed for the physical origin of these patterns. The similarity between the subpulse patterns in one of the OPMs of PSR B0809+74 at 328 MHz to that of the total intensity signal at 1380 MHz supports a picture of superposed, out of phase drift patterns. To explain the full range of behaviour seen in the three pulsars, it must be possible to produce at least three arbitrarily polarized superposed patterns. While the data do not suggest a particular approach for the empirical decomposition of patterns into non-orthogonally polarized components, the specific, quantitative nature of the results should provide strong constraints for theoretically driven modelling.
Key words: plasmas / polarization / stars: pulsars : individual: PSR B0320+39, PSR B0809+74, PSR B0818-13 / waves
© ESO, 2004