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    Spider pulsars continue to provide promising candidates for neutron star mass measurements. Here we present the discovery of PSR J1910−5320, a new millisecond pulsar discovered in a MeerKAT observation of an unidentified Fermi-LAT gamma-ray source. This pulsar is coincident with a recently identified candidate redback binary, independently discovered through its periodic optical flux and radial velocity. New multicolour optical light curves obtained with ULTRACAM/New Technology Telescope in combination with MeerKAT timing and updated SOAR/Goodman spectroscopic radial velocity measurements allow a mass constraint for PSR J1910−5320. icarus optical light curve modelling, with streamlined radial velocity fitting, constrains the orbital inclination and companion velocity, unlocking the binary mass function given the precise radio ephemeris. Our modelling aims to unite the photometric and spectroscopic measurements available by fitting each simultaneously to the same underlying physical model, ensuring self-consistency. This targets centre-of-light radial velocity corrections necessitated by the irradiation endemic to spider systems. Depending on the gravity darkening prescription used, we find a moderate neutron star mass of either 1.6 ± 0.2 or 1.4 ± 0.2 M⊙. The companion mass of either 0.45 ± 0.04 or $0.43^{+0.04}_{-0.03}$M⊙ also further confirms PSR J1910−5320 as an irradiated redback spider pulsar.

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    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 attributed 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.

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    We present a rapid timing analysis of optical (HiPERCAM and ULTRACAM) and X-ray (NICER) observations of the X-ray transient Swift J1858.6−0814 during 2018 and 2019. The optical light curves show relatively slow, large amplitude (∼1 mag in gs) ‘blue’ flares (i.e. stronger at shorter wavelengths) on time-scales of ∼minutes as well as fast, small amplitude (∼0.1 mag in gs) ‘red’ flares (i.e. stronger at longer wavelengths) on time-scales of ∼seconds. The ‘blue’ and ‘red’ flares are consistent with X-ray reprocessing and optically thin synchrotron emission, respectively, similar to what is observed in other X-ray binaries. The simultaneous optical versus soft- and hard-band X-ray light curves show time- and energy-dependent correlations. The 2019 March 4 and parts of the June data show a nearly symmetric positive cross-correlations (CCFs) at positive lags consistent with simple X-ray disc reprocessing. The soft- and hard-band CCFs are similar and can be reproduced if disc reprocessing dominates in the optical and one component (disc or synchrotron Comptonization) dominates both the soft and hard X-rays. A part of the 2019 June data shows a very different CCFs. The observed positive correlation at negative lag in the soft band can be reproduced if the optical synchrotron emission is correlated with the hot flow X-ray emission. The observed timing properties are in qualitative agreement with the hybrid inner hot accretion flow model, where the relative role of the different X-ray and optical components that vary during the course of the outburst, as well as on shorter time-scales, govern the shape of the optical/X-ray CCFs.

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  4. Abstract Reliable neutron star mass measurements are key to determining the equation of state of cold nuclear matter, but such measurements are rare. Black widows and redbacks are compact binaries consisting of millisecond pulsars and semi-degenerate companion stars. Spectroscopy of the optically bright companions can determine their radial velocities, providing inclination-dependent pulsar mass estimates. Although inclinations can be inferred from subtle features in optical light curves, such estimates may be systematically biased due to incomplete heating models and poorly understood variability. Using data from the Fermi Large Area Telescope, we have searched for gamma-ray eclipses from 49 spider systems, discovering significant eclipses in 7 systems, including the prototypical black widow PSR B1957+20. Gamma-ray eclipses require direct occultation of the pulsar by the companion, and so the detection, or significant exclusion, of a gamma-ray eclipse strictly limits the binary inclination angle, providing new robust, model-independent pulsar mass constraints. For PSR B1957+20, the eclipse implies a much lighter pulsar (1.81 ± 0.07 solar masses) than inferred from optical light curve modelling. 
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    The most massive globular cluster in our Galaxy, Omega Centauri, is an interesting target for pulsar searches, because of its multiple stellar populations and the intriguing possibility that it was once the nucleus of a galaxy that was absorbed into the Milky Way. The recent discoveries of pulsars in this globular cluster and their association with known X-ray sources was a hint that, given the large number of known X-ray sources, there is a much larger undiscovered pulsar population. We used the superior sensitivity of the MeerKAT radio telescope to search for pulsars in Omega Centauri. In this paper, we present some of the first results of this survey, including the discovery of 13 new pulsars; the total number of known pulsars in this cluster currently stands at 18. At least half of them are in binary systems and preliminary orbital constraints suggest that most of the binaries have light companions. We also discuss the ratio between isolated and binaries pulsars, and how they were formed in this cluster.

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    More than 100 millisecond pulsars (MSPs) have been discovered in radio observations of gamma-ray sources detected by the Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT), but hundreds of pulsar-like sources remain unidentified. Here, we present the first results from the targeted survey of Fermi-LAT sources being performed by the Transients and Pulsars with MeerKAT (TRAPUM) Large Survey Project. We observed 79 sources identified as possible gamma-ray pulsar candidates by a Random Forest classification of unassociated sources from the 4FGL catalogue. Each source was observed for 10 min on two separate epochs using MeerKAT’s L-band receiver (856–1712 MHz), with typical pulsed flux density sensitivities of $\sim 100\, \mu$Jy. Nine new MSPs were discovered, eight of which are in binary systems, including two eclipsing redbacks and one system, PSR J1526−2744, that appears to have a white dwarf companion in an unusually compact 5 h orbit. We obtained phase-connected timing solutions for two of these MSPs, enabling the detection of gamma-ray pulsations in the Fermi-LAT data. A follow-up search for continuous gravitational waves from PSR J1526−2744 in Advanced LIGO data using the resulting Fermi-LAT timing ephemeris yielded no detection, but sets an upper limit on the neutron star ellipticity of 2.45 × 10−8. We also detected X-ray emission from the redback PSR J1803−6707 in data from the first eROSITA all-sky survey, likely due to emission from an intrabinary shock.

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  7. null (Ed.)
    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 that 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. 
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  8. null (Ed.)

    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.

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