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Title: Three-dimensional Dynamics of Strongly Twisted Magnetar Magnetospheres: Kinking Flux Tubes and Global Eruptions

The origins of the various outbursts of hard X-rays from magnetars (highly magnetized neutron stars) are still unknown. We identify instabilities in relativistic magnetospheres that can explain a range of X-ray flare luminosities. Crustal surface motions can twist the magnetar magnetosphere by shifting the frozen-in footpoints of magnetic field lines in current-carrying flux bundles. Axisymmetric (2D) magnetospheres exhibit strong eruptive dynamics, i.e., catastrophic lateral instabilities triggered by a critical footpoint displacement ofψcritπ. In contrast, our new three-dimensional (3D) twist models with finite surface extension capture important non-axisymmetric dynamics of twisted force-free flux bundles in dipolar magnetospheres. Besides the well-established global eruption resulting (as in 2D) from lateral instabilities, such 3D structures can develop helical, kink-like dynamics, and dissipate energy locally (confined eruptions). Up to 25% of the induced twist energy is dissipated and available to power X-ray flares in powerful global eruptions, with most of our models showing an energy release in the range of the most common X-ray outbursts, ≲1043erg. Such events occur when significant energy builds up while deeply buried in the dipole magnetosphere. Less energetic outbursts likely precede powerful flares, due to intermittent instabilities and confined eruptions of a continuously twisting flux tube. Upon reaching a more » critical state, global eruptions produce the necessary Poynting-flux-dominated outflows required by models prescribing the fast radio burst production in the magnetar wind—for example, via relativistic magnetic reconnection or shocks.

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Award ID(s):
1909458 2206610 2206607
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal Letters
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Article No. L34
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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