What brakes the Crab pulsar?
1 Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, University of Ljubljana, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
2 INAF, Astronomical Observatory of Padova, 35122 Padova, Italy
3 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Padova, 35122 Padova, Italy
4 Department of Information Engineering, University of Padova, 35122 Padova, Italy
5 CNR-IFN UOS Padova LUXOR, 35131 Padova, Italy
6 Department of Physics, University of Atacama, 5 Copiapo, Chile
Received: 7 May 2015
Accepted: 3 October 2015
Context. Optical observations provide convincing evidence that the optical phase of the Crab pulsar follows the radio one closely. Since optical data do not depend on dispersion measure variations, they provide a robust and independent confirmation of the radio timing solution.
Aims. The aim of this paper is to find a global mathematical description of Crab pulsar’s phase as a function of time for the complete set of published Jodrell Bank radio ephemerides (JBE) in the period 1988−2014.
Methods. We apply the mathematical techniques developed for analyzing optical observations to the analysis of JBE. We break the whole period into a series of episodes and express the phase of the pulsar in each episode as the sum of two analytical functions. The first function is the best-fitting local braking index law, and the second function represents small residuals from this law with an amplitude of only a few turns, which rapidly relaxes to the local braking index law.
Results. From our analysis, we demonstrate that the power law index undergoes “instantaneous” changes at the time of observed jumps in rotational frequency (glitches). We find that the phase evolution of the Crab pulsar is dominated by a series of constant braking law episodes, with the braking index changing abruptly after each episode in the range of values between 2.1 and 2.6. Deviations from such a regular phase description behave as oscillations triggered by glitches and amount to fewer than 40 turns during the above period, in which the pulsar has made more than 2 × 1010 turns.
Conclusions. Our analysis does not favor the explanation that glitches are connected to phenomena occurring in the interior of the pulsar. On the contrary, timing irregularities and changes in slow down rate seem to point to electromagnetic interaction of the pulsar with the surrounding environment.
Key words: pulsars: general / pulsars: individual: PSR B0531+21 / radiation mechanisms: general / stars: magnetic field
© ESO, 2016