skip to main content

Title: Measuring the mass of the black widow PSR J1555-2908

Accurate measurements of the masses of neutron stars are necessary to test binary evolution models, and to constrain the neutron star equation of state. In pulsar binaries with no measurable post-Keplerian parameters, this requires an accurate estimate of the binary system’s inclination and the radial velocity of the companion star by other means than pulsar timing. In this paper, we present the results of a new method for measuring this radial velocity using the binary synthesis code Icarus. This method relies on constructing a model spectrum of a tidally distorted, irradiated star as viewed for a given binary configuration. This method is applied to optical spectra of the newly discovered black widow PSR J1555–2908. By modeling the optical spectroscopy alongside optical photometry, we find that the radial velocity of the companion star is 397 ± 4 km s−1 (errors quoted at 95 per cent confidence interval), as well as a binary inclination of >75°. Combined with γ-ray pulsation timing information, this gives a neutron star mass of 1.67$^{+0.15}_{-0.09}$ M⊙ and a companion mass of 0.060$^{+0.005}_{-0.003}$ M⊙, placing PSR J1555–2908 at the observed upper limit of what is considered a black widow system.

 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 3001-3014
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this

    Black widows are extreme millisecond pulsar binaries where the pulsar wind ablates their low-mass companion stars. In the optical range, their light curves vary periodically due to the high irradiation and tidal distortion of the companion, which allows us to infer the binary parameters. We present simultaneous multiband observations obtained with the HIPERCAM instrument at the 10.4-m GTC telescope for six of these systems. The combination of this five-band (us,gs, rs, is, zs) fast photometer with the world’s largest optical telescope enables us to inspect the light curve range near minima. We present the first light curve for PSR J1641+8049, as well as attain a significant increase in signal to noise and cadence compared with previous publications for the remaining five targets: PSR J0023+0923, PSR J0251+2606, PSR J0636+5129, PSR J0952−0607, and PSR J1544+4937. We report on the results of the light-curve modelling with the Icarus code for all six systems, which reveals some of the hottest and densest companion stars known. We compare the parameters derived with the limited but steadily growing black widow population for which optical modelling is available. We find some expected correlations, such as that between the companion star mean density and the orbital period of the system, which can be attributedmore »to the high number of Roche-lobe filling companions. On the other hand, the positive correlation between the orbital inclination and the irradiation temperature of the companion is puzzling. We propose such a correlation would arise if pulsars with magnetic axis orthogonal to their spin axis are capable of irradiating their companions to a higher degree.

    « less
  2. Abstract

    We present timing solutions for 12 pulsars discovered in the Green Bank North Celestial Cap 350 MHz pulsar survey, including six millisecond pulsars (MSPs), a double neutron star (DNS) system, and a pulsar orbiting a massive white dwarf companion. Timing solutions presented here include 350 and 820 MHz Green Bank Telescope data from initial confirmation and follow-up, as well as a dedicated timing campaign spanning 1 ryr PSR J1122−3546 is an isolated MSP, PSRs J1221−0633 and J1317−0157 are MSPs in black widow systems and regularly exhibit eclipses, and PSRs J2022+2534 and J2039−3616 are MSPs that can be timed with high precision and have been included in pulsar timing array experiments seeking to detect low-frequency gravitational waves. PSRs J1221−0633 and J2039−3616 have Fermi Large Area Telescope gamma-ray counterparts and also exhibit significant gamma-ray pulsations. We measure proper motions for three of the MSPs in this sample and estimate their space velocities, which are typical compared to those of other MSPs. We have detected the advance of periastron for PSR J1018−1523 and therefore measure the total mass of the DNS system,mtot= 2.3 ± 0.3M. Long-term pulsar timing with data spanning more than 1 yr is critical for classifying recycled pulsars, carryingmore »out detailed astrometry studies, and shedding light on the wealth of information in these systems post-discovery.

    « less
  3. ABSTRACT The Fermi Large Area Telescope gamma-ray source 3FGL J2039.6–5618 contains a periodic optical and X-ray source that was predicted to be a ‘redback’ millisecond pulsar (MSP) binary system. However, the conclusive identification required the detection of pulsations from the putative MSP. To better constrain the orbital parameters for a directed search for gamma-ray pulsations, we obtained new optical light curves in 2017 and 2018, which revealed long-term variability from the companion star. The resulting orbital parameter constraints were used to perform a targeted gamma-ray pulsation search using the Einstein@Home-distributed volunteer computing system. This search discovered pulsations with a period of 2.65 ms, confirming the source as a binary MSP now known as PSR J2039–5617. Optical light-curve modelling is complicated, and likely biased, by asymmetric heating on the companion star and long-term variability, but we find an inclination i ≳ 60°, for a low pulsar mass between $1.1\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot } \lt M_{\rm psr} \lt $ 1.6 M⊙, and a companion mass of 0.15–$0.22\, \mathrm{M}_{\odot }$, confirming the redback classification. Timing the gamma-ray pulsations also revealed significant variability in the orbital period, which we find to be consistent with quadrupole moment variations in the companion star, suggestive of convective activity. We also find thatmore »the pulsed flux is modulated at the orbital period, potentially due to inverse Compton scattering between high-energy leptons in the pulsar wind and the companion star’s optical photon field.« less
  4. Abstract

    AQ Col (EC 05217-3914) is one of the first detected pulsating subdwarf B (sdB) stars and has been considered to be a single star. Photometric monitoring of AQ Col reveals a pulsation timing variation with a period of 486 days, interpreted as time delay due to reflex motion in a wide binary formed with an unseen companion with expected mass larger than 1.05M. The optical spectra and color–magnitude diagram of the system suggested that the companion is not a main-sequence star but a white dwarf or neutron star. The pulsation timing variation also shows that the system has an eccentricity of 0.424, which is much larger than any known sdB long period binary system. That might be due to the existence of another short period companion to the sdB star. Two optical spectra obtained on 1996 December 5 show a radial velocity change of 49.1 km s−1in 46.1 minutes, which suggests the hot subdwarf in the wide binary is itself a close binary formed with another unseen white dwarf or neutron star companion; if further observations show this interpretation to be correct, AQ Col is an interesting triple system worthy of further study.

  5. Abstract We present new discoveries and results from long-term timing of 72 pulsars discovered in the Pulsar Arecibo L -band Feed Array (PALFA) survey, including precise determination of astrometric and spin parameters, and flux density and scatter broadening measurements at 1.4 GHz. Notable discoveries include two young pulsars (characteristic ages ∼30 kyr) with no apparent supernova remnant associations, three mode-changing, 12 nulling and two intermittent pulsars. We detected eight glitches in five pulsars. Among them is PSR J1939+2609, an apparently old pulsar (characteristic age ∼1 Gy), and PSR J1954+2529, which likely belongs to a newly emerging class of binary pulsars. The latter is the only pulsar among the 72 that is clearly not isolated: a nonrecycled neutron star with a 931 ms spin period in an eccentric ( e = 0.114) wide ( P b = 82.7 days) orbit with a companion of undetermined nature having a minimum mass of ∼0.6 M ⊙ . Since operations at Arecibo ceased in 2020 August, we give a final tally of PALFA sky coverage, and compare its 207 pulsar discoveries to the known population. On average, they are 50% more distant than other Galactic plane radio pulsars; PALFA millisecond pulsars (MSPs) have twicemore »the dispersion measure per unit spin period than the known population of MSP in the plane. The four intermittent pulsars discovered by PALFA more than double the population of such objects, which should help to improve our understanding of pulsar magnetosphere physics. The statistics for these, rotating radio transients, and nulling pulsars suggest that there are many more of these objects in the Galaxy than was previously thought.« less