Volume 642, October 2020
|Number of page(s)||11|
|Published online||20 October 2020|
Dissipation of the striped pulsar wind and non-thermal particle acceleration: 3D PIC simulations
Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IPAG, 38000 Grenoble, France
2 Center for Computational Astrophysics, Flatiron Institute, 162 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010, USA
Accepted: 26 August 2020
Context. The formation of a large-scale current sheet is a generic feature of pulsar magnetospheres. If the magnetic axis is misaligned with the star rotation axis, the current sheet is an oscillatory structure filling an equatorial wedge determined by the inclination angle, known as the striped wind. Relativistic reconnection could lead to significant dissipation of magnetic energy and particle acceleration, although the efficiency of this process is debated in this context.
Aims. In this study, we aim at reconciling global models of pulsar wind dynamics and reconnection in the stripes within the same numerical framework in order to shed new light on dissipation and particle acceleration in pulsar winds.
Methods. To this end, we perform large three-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations of a split-monopole magnetosphere, from the stellar surface up to 50 light-cylinder radii away from the pulsar.
Results. Plasmoid-dominated reconnection efficiently fragments the current sheet into a dynamical network of interacting flux ropes separated by secondary current sheets that consume the field efficiently at all radii, even past the fast magnetosonic point. Our results suggest there is a universal dissipation radius solely determined by the reconnection rate in the sheet, lying well upstream from the termination shock radius in isolated pair-producing pulsars. The wind bulk Lorentz factor is much less relativistic than previously thought. In the co-moving frame, the wind is composed of hot pairs trapped within flux ropes with a hard broad power-law spectrum, whose maximum energy is limited by the magnetization of the wind at launch.
Conclusions. We conclude that the striped wind is most likely fully dissipated when it enters the pulsar wind nebula. The predicted wind particle spectrum after dissipation is reminiscent of the Crab Nebula radio-emitting electrons.
Key words: acceleration of particles / magnetic reconnection / radiation mechanisms: non-thermal / methods: numerical / pulsars: general / stars: winds, outflows
© B. Cerutti et al. 2020
Open Access article, published by EDP Sciences, under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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