skip to main content

Attention:

The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 11:00 PM ET on Friday, July 12 until 2:00 AM ET on Saturday, July 13 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.


Title: Axisymmetric Pulsar Magnetosphere Revisited
Abstract

We present a global kinetic plasma simulation of an axisymmetric pulsar magnetosphere with self-consistente±pair production. We use the particle-in-cell method and log-spherical coordinates with a grid size 4096 × 4096. This allows us to achieve a high voltage induced by the pulsar rotation and investigate pair creation in a young pulsar far from the death line. We find the following: (1) The energy release ande±creation are strongly concentrated in the thin, Y-shaped current sheet, with a peak localized in a small volume at the Y-point. (2) The Y-point is shifted inward from the light cylinder by ∼15% and “breathes” with a small amplitude. (3) The densee±cloud at the Y-point is in ultrarelativistic rotation, which we call superrotation, because it exceeds corotation with the star. The cloud receives angular momentum flowing from the star along the poloidal magnetic field lines. (4) Gamma-ray emission peaks at the Y-point and is collimated in the azimuthal direction, tangent to the Y-point circle. (5) The separatrix current sheet between the closed magnetosphere and the open magnetic field lines is sustained by the electron backflow from the Y-point cloud. Its thickness is self-regulated to marginal charge starvation. (6) Only a small fraction of dissipation occurs in the separatrix inward of the Y-point. A much higher power is released in the equatorial plane, including the Y-point where the created densee±plasma is spun up and intermittently ejected through the nozzle between the two open magnetic fluxes.

 
more » « less
NSF-PAR ID:
10378520
Author(s) / Creator(s):
;
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Volume:
939
Issue:
1
ISSN:
0004-637X
Format(s):
Medium: X Size: Article No. 42
Size(s):
Article No. 42
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Context. Accreting black holes (BHs) may be surrounded by a highly magnetized plasma threaded by an organized poloidal magnetic field. Nonthermal flares and power-law spectral components at high energy could originate from a hot, collisionless, and nearly force-free corona. The jets we often observe from these systems are believed to be rotation-powered and magnetically driven. Aims. We study axisymmetric BH magnetospheres, where a fraction of the magnetic field lines anchored in a surrounding disk are connected to the event horizon of a rotating BH. For different BH spins, we identify the conditions and sites of magnetic reconnection within 30 gravitational radii. Methods. With the fully general relativistic particle-in-cell code GRZeltron , we solve the time-dependent dynamics of the electron–positron pair plasma and of the electromagnetic fields around the BH. The aligned disk is represented by a steady and perfectly conducting plasma in Keplerian rotation, threaded by a dipolar magnetic field. Results. For prograde disks around Kerr BHs, the topology of the magnetosphere is hybrid. Twisted open magnetic field lines crossing the horizon power a Blandford-Znajek jet, while open field lines with their footpoint beyond a critical distance on the disk could launch a magneto-centrifugal wind. In the innermost regions, coupling magnetic field lines ensure the transfer of significant amounts of angular momentum and energy between the BH and the disk. From the Y point at the intersection of these three regions, a current sheet forms where vivid particle acceleration via magnetic reconnection takes place. We compute the synchrotron images of the current sheet emission. Conclusions. Our estimates for jet power and BH–disk exchanges match those derived from purely force-free models. Particles are accelerated at the Y point, which acts as a heat source for the so-called corona. It provides a physically motivated ring-shaped source of hard X-rays above the disk for reflection models. Episodic plasmoid ejection might explain millisecond flares observed in Cygnus X-1 in the high-soft state, but are too fast to account for daily nonthermal flares from Sgr A * . Particles flowing from the Y point down to the disk could produce a hot spot at the footpoint of the outermost closed magnetic field line. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Some of the most energetic pulsars exhibit rotation-modulatedγ-ray emission in the 0.1–100 GeV band. The luminosity of this emission is typically 0.1%–10% of the pulsar spin-down power (γ-ray efficiency), implying that a significant fraction of the available electromagnetic energy is dissipated in the magnetosphere and reradiated as high-energy photons. To investigate this phenomenon we model a pulsar magnetosphere using 3D particle-in-cell simulations with strong synchrotron cooling. We particularly focus on the dynamics of the equatorial current sheet where magnetic reconnection and energy dissipation take place. Our simulations demonstrate that a fraction of the spin-down power dissipated in the magnetospheric current sheet is controlled by the rate of magnetic reconnection at microphysical plasma scales and only depends on the pulsar inclination angle. We demonstrate that the maximum energy and the distribution function of accelerated pairs is controlled by the available magnetic energy per particle near the current sheet, the magnetization parameter. The shape and the extent of the plasma distribution is imprinted in the observed synchrotron emission, in particular, in the peak and the cutoff of the observed spectrum. We study how the strength of synchrotron cooling affects the observed variety of spectral shapes. Our conclusions naturally explain why pulsars with higher spin-down power have wider spectral shapes and, as a result, lowerγ-ray efficiency.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Magnetic reconnection is ubiquitous in astrophysical systems, and in many such systems the plasma suffers from significant cooling due to synchrotron radiation. We study relativistic magnetic reconnection in the presence of strong synchrotron cooling, where the ambient magnetization,σ, is high and the magnetic compactness,B, of the system is of order unity. In this regime,e±pair production from synchrotron photons is inevitable, and this process can regulate the magnetizationσsurrounding the current sheet. We investigate this self-regulation analytically and find a self-consistent steady state for a given magnetic compactness of the system and initial magnetization. This result helps estimate the self-consistent upstream magnetization in systems where plasma density is poorly constrained, and can be useful for a variety of astrophysical systems. As illustrative examples, we apply it to study the properties of reconnecting current sheets near the supermassive black hole of M87, as well as the equatorial current sheet outside the light cylinder of the Crab pulsar.

     
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Global simulations predict that the low‐latitude mantle may be an important pathway for the solar wind entry into the tail magnetosphere close to the current sheet when interplanetary magnetic field (IMF)Bydominates over IMFBz. To evaluate this entry mechanism in the near‐Earth tail (X ∼ −10–−20RE), we investigate the predictions from 3D global hybrid simulations as well as in situ observations by magnetospheric multiscale (MMS) spacecraft. The simulations predict that the low‐latitude mantle plasma can appear in the near‐Earth tail lobe extending inward approximately 5REfrom the flank magnetopause. The low‐latitude mantle plasma appears in the dawnside northern lobe and duskside southern lobe during positive IMFBy, while the opposite asymmetry is seen during negative IMFBy. After a change in the IMFBydirection arriving at the bow shock nose, it takes another ∼15–30 min for the asymmetry to completely reverse to the opposite sense in the near‐Earth tail. We present six MMS events in the tail lobe showing that the existence and absence of the low‐latitude mantle plasma is consistent with the predicted asymmetries. Statistical analysis of 5 years of MMS observations shows that the dependencies of the magnitudes of the lobe densities and tailward field‐aligned flow speeds on the IMFBydirections are consistent with the predicted contributions from the low‐latitude mantle plasma in the expected lobe regions.

     
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Pulsar radio emission may be generated in pair discharges that fill the pulsar magnetosphere with plasma as an accelerating electric field is screened by freshly created pairs. In this Letter, we develop a simplified analytic theory for the screening of the electric field in these pair discharges and use it to estimate total radio luminosity and spectrum. The discharge has three stages. First, the electric field is screened for the first time and starts to oscillate. Next, a nonlinear phase occurs. In this phase, the amplitude of the electric field experiences strong damping because the field dramatically changes the momenta of newly created pairs. This strong damping ceases, and the system enters a final linear phase, when the electric field can no longer dramatically change pair momenta. Applied to pulsars, this theory may explain several aspects of radio emission, including the observed luminosity,Lrad∼ 1028erg s−1, and the observed spectrum,Sωω−1.4±1.0.

     
    more » « less