Volume 641, September 2020
|Number of page(s)||13|
|Section||Stellar structure and evolution|
|Published online||01 September 2020|
Magnetospheric return-current-heated atmospheres of rotation-powered millisecond pulsars
Tuorla Observatory, Department of Physics and Astronomy, 20014 University of Turku, Finland
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
2 Nordita, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm University, Roslagstullsbacken 23, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden
3 Institut für Astronomie und Astrophysik, Kepler Center for Astro and Particle Physics, Universität Tübingen, Sand 1, 72076 Tübingen, Germany
4 Astronomy Department, Kazan (Volga region) Federal University, Kremlyovskaya str. 18, 420008 Kazan, Russia
5 Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Profsoyuznaya str. 84/32, 117997 Moscow, Russia
6 Physics Department and Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory, Columbia University, 538 West 120th Street, New York, NY 10027, USA
7 Center for Computational Astrophysics, Flatiron Institute, 162 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010, USA
Accepted: 15 June 2020
We computed accurate atmosphere models of rotation-powered millisecond pulsars in which the polar caps of a neutron star (NS) are externally heated by magnetospheric return currents. The external ram pressure, energy losses, and stopping depth of the penetrating charged particles were computed self-consistently with the atmosphere model, instead of assuming a simplified deep-heated atmosphere in radiative equilibrium. We used exact Compton scattering formalism to model the properties of the emergent X-ray radiation. The deep-heating approximation was found to be valid only if most of the heat originates from ultra-relativistic bombarding particles with Lorentz factors of γ ≳ 100. In the opposite regime, the atmosphere attains a distinct two-layer structure with an overheated optically thin skin on top of an optically thick cool plasma. The overheated skin strongly modifies the emergent radiation: It produces a Compton-upscattered high-energy tail in the spectrum and alters the radiation beaming pattern from limb darkening to limb brightening for emitted hard X-rays. This kind of drastic change in the emission properties can have a significant impact on the inferred NS pulse profile parameters as performed, for example, by Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR. Finally, the connection between the energy distribution of the return current particles and the atmosphere emission properties offers a new tool to probe the exact physics of pulsar magnetospheres.
Key words: radiative transfer / methods: numerical / pulsars: general / stars: atmospheres / stars: neutron / X-rays: stars
© ESO 2020
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