A pinboard by
Aaron Pearlman

Physics Ph.D. student, California Institute of Technology (Caltech)


PSR J1119-6127 could be in a never-before-seen transition state between a radio pulsar and magnetar

Pulsars are extremely dense, magnetized rotating neutron stars that form when a large star, with 10-30 times the mass of the sun, runs out of fuel and collapses under its own gravity. Typical pulsar magnetic fields are twelve orders of magnitude, or a factor of one trillion, times larger than the Earth’s magnetic field. Magnetars, on the other hand, are a rare breed of pulsars which comprise only ~0.2% of the radio pulsar population and possess magnetic fields 100-1,000 times stronger than typical pulsars, making them the most magnetic objects in the universe. They exhibit violent, high-energy outbursts of X-rays and gamma-rays and are mainly powered by their strong magnetic field. The evolutionary cycle of magnetars and their connection with other classes of neutron stars and pulsars is still not completely understood.

We present results from a high frequency radio monitoring campaign of the high magnetic field pulsar PSR J1119-6127 with the Deep Space Network (DSN) 70 m antenna (DSS-43) in Canberra, Australia. Remarkable changes in the radio emission profile were observed over several months after an initial disappearance of radio pulsations and gamma-ray and X-ray outbursts. These changes suggest that PSR J1119-6127 may be in a never-before-seen transition state between a radio pulsar and a magnetar. These observations may provide the missing evolutionary link between pulsars and magnetars and may even suggest that PSR J1119-6127 is a newly born magnetar.

Early results from this work have recently been featured in news articles by NASA, Caltech, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL):

NASA Press Release: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/the-case-of-the-missing-link-neutron-star

Caltech Press Release: http://www.caltech.edu/news/case-missing-link-neutron-star-53506

JPL Press Release: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=6715


Oscillation Driven Magnetospheric Activity In Pulsars

Abstract: We study the magnetospheric activity in the polar cap region of pulsars under stellar oscillations. The toroidal oscillation of the star propagates into the magnetosphere, which provides additional voltage due to unipolar induction, changes Goldreich-Julian charge density from the traditional value due to rotation, and hence, influences particle acceleration. We present a general solution of the effect of oscillations within the framework of the inner vacuum gap model, and consider three different inner gap modes controlled by curvature radiation, inverse Compton scattering, and two photon annihilation, respectively. With different pulsar parameters and oscillation amplitudes, one of three modes would play a dominant role in defining the gap properties. When the amplitude of oscillation exceeds a critical value, mode changing would occur. Oscillations also lead to change of the size of the polar cap. As applications, we show the inner gap properties under oscillations in both normal pulsars and anomalous X-ray pulsars / soft gamma-ray repeaters (AXPs/SGRs). We interpret the onset of radio emission after glitches/flares in AXPs/SGRs as due to oscilation-driven magnetic activities in these objects, within the framework of both the magnetar model and the solid quark star model. Within the magnetar model, radio activation may be caused by the enlargement of the effective polar cap angle and the radio emission beam due to oscillation; whereas within the solid quark star angle, it may be caused by activation of the pulsar inner gap from below the radio emission death line due to an oscillation-induced voltage enhancement. The model can also explain the glitch-induced radio profile change observed in PSR J1119-6127.

Pub.: 25 Nov '14, Pinned: 30 Jun '17

Discovery of Two High-Magnetic-Field Radio Pulsars

Abstract: We report the discovery of two young isolated radio pulsars with very high inferred magnetic fields. PSR J1119-6127 has period P = 0.407 s, and the largest period derivative known among radio pulsars, Pdot = 4.0e-12. Under standard assumptions these parameters imply a characteristic spin-down age of only tau = 1.6 kyr and a surface dipole magnetic field strength of B = 4.1e13 G. We have measured a stationary period-second-derivative for this pulsar, resulting in a braking index of n = 2.91+-0.05. We have also observed a glitch in the rotation of the pulsar, with fractional period change Delta_P/P = -4.4e-9. Archival radio imaging data suggest the presence of a previously uncataloged supernova remnant centered on the pulsar. The second pulsar, PSR J1814-1744, has P = 3.975 s and Pdot = 7.4e-13. These parameters imply tau = 85 kyr, and B = 5.5e13 G, the largest of any known radio pulsar. Both PSR J1119-6127 and PSR J1814-1744 show apparently normal radio emission in a regime of magnetic field strength where some models predict that no emission should occur. Also, PSR J1814-1744 has spin parameters similar to the anomalous X-ray pulsar (AXP) 1E 2259+586, but shows no discernible X-ray emission. If AXPs are isolated, high magnetic field neutron stars (``magnetars''), these results suggest that their unusual attributes are unlikely to be merely a consequence of their very high inferred magnetic fields.

Pub.: 24 Apr '00, Pinned: 30 Jun '17

The glitch-induced identity changes of PSR J1119-6127

Abstract: We demonstrate that the high-magnetic field pulsar J1119-6127 exhibits three different types of behaviour in the radio band. Trailing the "normal" profile peak there is an "intermittent" peak and these components are flanked by two additional components showing very erratic "RRAT-like" emission. Both the intermittent and RRAT-like events are extremely rare and are preceded by a large amplitude glitch in the spin-down parameters. The post-glitch spin-down rate is smaller than the pre-glitch rate. This type of relaxation is very unusual for the pulsar population as a whole, but is observed in the glitch recovery of a RRAT. The abnormal emission behaviour in PSR J1119-6127 was observed up to three months after the epoch of the large glitch, suggestive of changes in the magnetospheric conditions during the fast part of the recovery process. We argue that both the anomalous recoveries and the emission changes could be related to reconfigurations of the magnetic field. Apart from the glitches, the spin-down of PSR J1119-6127 is relatively stable, allowing us to refine the measurement of the braking index (n=2.684\pm0.002) using more than 12 years of timing data. The properties of this pulsar are discussed in light of the growing evidence that RRATs do not form a distinct class of pulsar, but rather are a combination of different extreme emission types seen in other neutron stars. Different sub-classes of the RRATs can potentially be separated by calculating the lower limit on the modulation index of their emission. We speculate that if the abnormal behaviour in PSR J1119-6127 is indeed glitch induced then there might exist a population of neutron stars which only become visible in the radio band for a short duration in the immediate aftermath of glitch activity. These neutron stars will be visible in the radio band as sources that only emit some clustered pulses every so many years.

Pub.: 05 Oct '10, Pinned: 30 Jun '17

Using Chandra to Unveil the High-Energy Properties of the High-Magnetic Field Radio Pulsar J1119-6127

Abstract: (shortened) PSR J1119-6127 is a high magnetic field (B=4.1E13 Gauss), young (<=1,700 year-old), and slow (P=408 ms) radio pulsar associated with the supernova remnant (SNR) G292.2-0.5. In 2003, Chandra allowed the detection of the X-ray counterpart of the radio pulsar, and provided the first evidence for a compact pulsar wind nebula (PWN). We here present new Chandra observations which allowed for the first time an imaging and spectroscopic study of the pulsar and PWN independently of each other. The PWN is only evident in the hard band and consists of jet-like structures extending to at least 7" from the pulsar, with the southern `jet' being longer than the northern `jet'. The spectrum of the PWN is described by a power law with a photon index~1.1 for the compact PWN and ~1.4 for the southern long jet (at a fixed column density of 1.8E22/cm2), and a total luminosity of 4E32 ergs/s (0.5-7 keV), at a distance of 8.4 kpc. The pulsar's spectrum is clearly softer than the PWN's spectrum. We rule out a single blackbody model for the pulsar, and present the first evidence of non-thermal (presumably magnetospheric) emission that dominates above ~3keV. A two-component model consisting of a power law component (with photon index ~1.5--2.0) plus a thermal component provides the best fit. The thermal component can be fit by either a blackbody model with a temperature kT~0.21 keV, or a neutron star atmospheric model with a temperature kT~0.14 keV. The efficiency of the pulsar in converting its rotational power, Edot, into non-thermal X-ray emission from the pulsar and PWN is ~5E-4, comparable to other rotation-powered pulsars with a similar Edot. We discuss our results in the context of the X-ray manifestation of high-magnetic field radio pulsars in comparison with rotation-powered pulsars and magnetars.

Pub.: 24 May '08, Pinned: 30 Jun '17

Radio Polarization of the Young High-Magnetic-Field Pulsar PSR J1119-6127

Abstract: We have investigated the radio polarization properties of PSR J1119-6127, a recently discovered young radio pulsar with a large magnetic field. Using pulsar-gated radio imaging data taken at a center frequency of 2496 MHz with the Australia Telescope Compact Array, we have determined a rotation measure for the pulsar of +842 +/- 23 rad m^-2. These data, combined with archival polarimetry data taken at a center frequency of 1366 MHz with the Parkes telescope, were used to determine the polarization characteristics of PSR J1119-6127 at both frequencies. The pulsar has a fractional linear polarization of ~75% and ~55% at 1366 and 2496 MHz, respectively, and the profile consists of a single, wide component. This pulse morphology and high degree of linear polarization are in agreement with previously noticed trends for young pulsars (e.g., PSR J1513-5908). A rotating-vector (RV) model fit of the position angle (PA) of linear polarization over pulse phase using the Parkes data suggests that the radio emission comes from the leading edge of a conal beam. We discuss PSR J1119-6127 in the context of a recent theoretical model of pulsar spin-down which can in principle be tested with polarization and timing data from this pulsar. Geometric constraints from the RV fit are currently insufficient to test this model with statistical significance, but additional data may allow such a test in the future.

Pub.: 04 Mar '03, Pinned: 30 Jun '17

Pulse Broadening Measurements from the Galactic Center Pulsar J1745--2900

Abstract: We present temporal scattering measurements of single pulses and average profiles of PSR J1745--2900, a magnetar recently discovered only 3 arcsec away from Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), from 1.2 - 18.95 GHz using the Effelsberg 100-m Radio Telescope, the Nan\c{c}ay Decimetric Radio Telescope, and the Jodrell Bank Lovell Telescope. Single pulse analysis shows that the integrated pulse profile above 2 GHz is dominated by pulse jitter, while below 2 GHz the pulse profile shape is dominated by scattering. The high dispersion measure and rotation measure of the magnetar suggest that it is close to Sgr A* (within ~0.1 pc). This is the first object in the GC with both pulse broadening and angular broadening measurements. We measure a pulse broadening spectral index of alpha = -3.8 +/- 0.2 and a pulse broadening time scale at 1 GHz of tau_GHz = 1.3 +/- 0.2 s, which is several orders of magnitude lower than the scattering predicted by the NE2001 model (Cordes and Lazio 2002). If this scattering timescale is representative of the GC as a whole, then previous surveys should have detected many pulsars. The lack of detections implies either our understanding of scattering in the GC is incomplete or there are fewer pulsars in the GC than previously predicted. Given that magnetars are a rare class of radio pulsar, we believe that there are many canonical and millisecond pulsars in the GC, and not surprisingly, scattering regions in the GC have complex spatial structures.

Pub.: 18 Sep '13, Pinned: 30 Jun '17

The Proper Motion of the Galactic Center Pulsar Relative to Sagittarius A*

Abstract: We measure the proper motion of the pulsar PSR J1745-2900 relative to the Galactic Center massive black hole, Sgr A*, using the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). The pulsar has a transverse velocity of 236 +/- 11 km s^-1 at position angle 22 +/- 2 deg East of North at a projected separation of 0.097 pc from Sgr A*. Given the unknown radial velocity, this transverse velocity measurement does not conclusively prove that the pulsar is bound to Sgr A*; however, the probability of chance alignment is very small. We do show that the velocity and position is consistent with a bound orbit originating in the clockwise disk of massive stars orbiting Sgr A* and a natal velocity kick of <~ 500 km s^-1. An origin among the isotropic stellar cluster is possible but less probable. If the pulsar remains radio-bright, multi-year astrometry of PSR J1745-2900 can detect its acceleration and determine the full three-dimensional orbit. We also demonstrate that PSR J1745-2900 exhibits the same angular broadening as Sgr A* over a wavelength range of 3.6 cm to 0.7 cm, further confirming that the two sources share the same interstellar scattering properties. Finally, we place the first limits on the presence of a wavelength-dependent shift in the position of Sgr A*, i.e., the core shift, one of the expected properties of optically-thick jet emission. Our results for PSR J1745-2900 support the hypothesis that Galactic Center pulsars will originate from the stellar disk and deepens the mystery regarding the small number of detected Galactic Center pulsars.

Pub.: 15 Mar '16, Pinned: 30 Jun '17