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  1. 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
  2. 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.