Force-free twisted magnetospheres of neutron stars
Departament de Física AplicadaUniversitat d’Alacant,
Ap. Correus 99,
Accepted: 8 July 2011
Context. The X-ray spectra observed in the persistent emission of magnetars are evidence for the existence of a magnetosphere. The high-energy part of the spectra is explained by resonant cyclotron upscattering of soft thermal photons in a twisted magnetosphere, which has motivated an increasing number of efforts to improve and generalize existing magnetosphere models.
Aims. We want to build more general configurations of twisted, force-free magnetospheres as a first step to understanding the role played by the magnetic field geometry in the observed spectra.
Methods. First we reviewed and extended previous analytical works to assess the viability and limitations of semi-analytical approaches. Second, we built a numerical code able to relax an initial configuration of a nonrotating magnetosphere to a force-free geometry, provided any arbitrary form of the magnetic field at the star surface. The numerical code is based on a finite-difference time-domain, divergence-free, and conservative scheme, based of the magneto-frictional method used in other scenarios.
Results. We obtain new numerical configurations of twisted magnetospheres, with distributions of twist and currents that differ from previous analytical solutions. The range of global twist of the new family of solutions is similar to the existing semi-analytical models (up to some radians), but the achieved geometry may be quite different.
Conclusions. The geometry of twisted, force-free magnetospheres shows a wider variety of possibilities than previously considered. This has implications for the observed spectra and opens the possibility of implementing alternative models in simulations of radiative transfer aiming at providing spectra to be compared with observations.
Key words: stars: magnetic field / stars: neutron / magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) / scattering
© ESO, 2011