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  1. 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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  2. ABSTRACT In 2019 November, MAXI detected an X-ray outburst from the known Be X-ray binary system RX J0209.6−7427 located in the outer wing of the Small Magellanic Cloud. We followed the outburst of the system with NICER, which led to the discovery of X-ray pulsations with a period of 9.3 s. We analysed simultaneous X-ray data obtained with NuSTAR and NICER, allowing us to characterize the spectrum and provide an accurate estimate of its bolometric luminosity. During the outburst, the maximum broad-band X-ray luminosity of the system reached (1–2) × 1039 erg s−1, thus exceeding by about one order of magnitude the Eddington limit for a typical 1.4 M⊙ mass neutron star (NS). Monitoring observations with Fermi/GBM and NICER allowed us to study the spin evolution of the NS and compare it with standard accretion torque models. We found that the NS magnetic field should be of the order of 3 × 1012 G. We conclude that RX J0209.6−7427 exhibited one of the brightest outbursts observed from a Be X-ray binary pulsar in the Magellanic Clouds, reaching similar luminosity level to the 2016 outburst of SMC X-3. Despite the super-Eddington luminosity of RX J0209.6−7427, the NS appears to have only a moderate magnetic field strength. 
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  3. ABSTRACT

    The International Pulsar Timing Array 2nd data release is the combination of data sets from worldwide collaborations. In this study, we search for continuous waves: gravitational wave signals produced by individual supermassive black hole binaries in the local universe. We consider binaries on circular orbits and neglect the evolution of orbital frequency over the observational span. We find no evidence for such signals and set sky averaged 95 per cent upper limits on their amplitude h95. The most sensitive frequency is 10 nHz with h95 = 9.1 × 10−15. We achieved the best upper limit to date at low and high frequencies of the PTA band thanks to improved effective cadence of observations. In our analysis, we have taken into account the recently discovered common red noise process, which has an impact at low frequencies. We also find that the peculiar noise features present in some pulsars data must be taken into account to reduce the false alarm. We show that using custom noise models is essential in searching for continuous gravitational wave signals and setting the upper limit.

     
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  5. ABSTRACT

    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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  6. ABSTRACT

    We searched for an isotropic stochastic gravitational wave background in the second data release of the International Pulsar Timing Array, a global collaboration synthesizing decadal-length pulsar-timing campaigns in North America, Europe, and Australia. In our reference search for a power-law strain spectrum of the form $h_c = A(f/1\, \mathrm{yr}^{-1})^{\alpha }$, we found strong evidence for a spectrally similar low-frequency stochastic process of amplitude $A = 3.8^{+6.3}_{-2.5}\times 10^{-15}$ and spectral index α = −0.5 ± 0.5, where the uncertainties represent 95 per cent credible regions, using information from the auto- and cross-correlation terms between the pulsars in the array. For a spectral index of α = −2/3, as expected from a population of inspiralling supermassive black hole binaries, the recovered amplitude is $A = 2.8^{+1.2}_{-0.8}\times 10^{-15}$. None the less, no significant evidence of the Hellings–Downs correlations that would indicate a gravitational-wave origin was found. We also analysed the constituent data from the individual pulsar timing arrays in a consistent way, and clearly demonstrate that the combined international data set is more sensitive. Furthermore, we demonstrate that this combined data set produces comparable constraints to recent single-array data sets which have more data than the constituent parts of the combination. Future international data releases will deliver increased sensitivity to gravitational wave radiation, and significantly increase the detection probability.

     
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