From astrobites: “Observing a Strange Pulsar in X-ray and Radio”

Astrobites bloc


27 October 2017
Joshua Kerrigan

Title: Simultaneous Chandra and VLA Observations of the Transitional Millisecond Pulsar PSR J1023+0038: Anti-correlated X-ray and Radio Variability
Authors: Slavko Bogdanov, Adam T. Deller, James C. A. Miller-Jones, et al.
First Author’s Institution: Columbia University

Status: Submitted to ApJ, open access

What’s more interesting than a rapidly spinning neutron star that emits electromagnetic radiation parallel to its magnetic poles? One that doesn’t exactly behave as expected, of course. One such weirdly acting pulsar, PSR J1023+0038, is a transitional millisecond pulsar (tMSP) — which is fancy speak for a pulsar with a millisecond rotational period that switches between radio and X-ray emission on a several-year timescale. The fact that this pulsar emits in both X-ray and radio on these longer timescales isn’t what piques the interest of astronomers, however, in the case of the study in this astrobite.

Weird Pulsar Behavior

Pulsars can typically fall into one of the following categories: radio pulsars are powered by exchanging rotational energy from the spinning neutron star into emitting radiation. This means that their rotation slows and their pulse length increases. Meanwhile, X-ray pulsars are accretion powered, meaning they turn heated infalling matter into X-ray emission. What distinguishes PSR J1023+0038 from the background of pulsars that switch between accretion-powered X-ray and rotation-powered radio pulsars is that it has a simultaneous anti-correlated X-ray and radio emission. The authors looked at about 5 hours of overlapping and concurrent observations from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Very Large Array (VLA) to try and understand this weird relationship between the X-ray and radio emissions.

NASA/Chandra Telescope

NRAO/Karl V Jansky VLA, on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, NM, USA

This is very clearly shown in Fig. 1 where we can see a tiny sample of time of overlapping X-ray and radio flux measurements. The anti-correlation is quite strong, meaning that when the X-ray emissions are weakest, the radio emission is strongest.

Figure 1: Radio emissions (black) and x-ray emissions (blue) recorded by the VLA and Chandra respectively over time. This shows that when radio emissions drop off, X-ray emissions pick up.

See the full article here .

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