VLT polarimetry observations of the middle-aged pulsar PSR B0656+14⋆
1 INAF–Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica Milano, via E. Bassini 15 20133 Milano Italy
2 Janusz Gil Institute of Astronomy, University of Zielona Góra, Lubuska 2, 65-265 Zielona Góra, Poland
3 Centre for Astronomy, School of Physics, National University of Ireland Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland
4 INAF–Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, via Frascati 33, 00040 Monteporzio, Italy
5 Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center, ul. Rabiańska 8, 87100 Toruń, Poland
6 Max-Planck Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik, Giessenbachstrasse 1, 85741 Garching bei München, Germany
Received: 29 July 2015
Accepted: 5 October 2015
Context. Optical polarisation measurements are key tests for different models of the pulsar magnetosphere. Furthermore, comparing the relative orientation of the phase-averaged linear polarisation direction and the pulsar proper motion vector may unveil a peculiar alignment, clearly seen in the Crab pulsar.
Aims. Our goal is to obtain the first measurement of the phase-averaged optical linear polarisation of the fifth brightest optical pulsar, PSR B0656+14, which also has a precisely measured proper motion, and to verify a possible alignment between the polarisation direction and the proper motion vector.
Methods. We carried out observations with the Very Large Telescope (VLT) to measure the phase-averaged optical polarisation degree (PD) and position angle (PA) of PSR B0656+14.
Results. We measured a PD of 11.9% ± 5.5% and a PA of 125.8° ± 13.2°, measured east of north. Albeit of marginal significance, this is the first measurement of the phase-averaged optical PD for this pulsar. Moreover, we found that the PA of the phase-averaged polarisation vector is close to that of the pulsar proper motion (93.12° ± 0.38°).
Conclusions. Deeper observations are needed to confirm our polarisation measurement of PSR B0656+14, whereas polarisation measurements for more pulsars will better assess possible correlations of the polarisation degree with the pulsar parameters.
Key words: pulsars: individual: PSR B0656+14 / pulsars: general / polarization
© ESO, 2015