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  1. Abstract

    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 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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    The coalescence of two neutron stars is accompanied by the emission of gravitational waves, and can also feature electromagnetic counterparts powered by mass ejecta and the formation of a relativistic jet after the merger. Since neutron stars can feature strong magnetic fields, the non-trivial interaction of the neutron star magnetospheres might fuel potentially powerful electromagnetic transients prior to merger. A key process powering those precursor transients is relativistic reconnection in strong current sheets formed between the two stars. In this work, we provide a detailed analysis of how the twisting of the common magnetosphere of the binary leads to an emission of electromagnetic flares, akin to those produced in the solar corona. By means of relativistic force-free electrodynamics simulations, we clarify the role of different magnetic field topologies in the process. We conclude that flaring will always occur for suitable magnetic field alignments, unless one of the neutron stars has a magnetic field significantly weaker than the other.

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  3. Abstract

    The most common form of magnetar activity is short X-ray bursts, with durations from milliseconds to seconds, and luminosities ranging from 1036–1043erg s−1. Recently, an X-ray burst from the galactic magnetar SGR 1935+2154 was detected to be coincident with two fast radio burst (FRB) like events from the same source, providing evidence that FRBs may be linked to magnetar bursts. Using fully 3D force-free electrodynamics simulations, we show that such magnetar bursts may be produced by Alfvén waves launched from localized magnetar quakes: a wave packet propagates to the outer magnetosphere, becomes nonlinear, and escapes the magnetosphere, forming an ultra-relativistic ejecta. The ejecta pushes open the magnetospheric field lines, creating current sheets behind it. Magnetic reconnection can happen at these current sheets, leading to plasma energization and X-ray emission. The angular size of the ejecta can be compact, ≲1 sr if the quake launching region is small, ≲0.01 sr at the stellar surface. We discuss implications for the FRBs and the coincident X-ray burst from SGR 1935+2154.

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  4. Abstract

    One scenario for the generation of fast radio bursts (FRBs) is magnetic reconnection in a current sheet of the magnetar wind. Compressed by a strong magnetic pulse induced by a magnetar flare, the current sheet fragments into a self-similar chain of magnetic islands. Time-dependent plasma currents at their interfaces produce coherent radiation during their hierarchical coalescence. We investigate this scenario using 2D radiative relativistic particle-in-cell simulations to compute the efficiency of the coherent emission and to obtain frequency scalings. Consistent with expectations, a fraction of the reconnected magnetic field energy,f∼ 0.002, is converted to packets of high-frequency fast magnetosonic waves, which can escape from the magnetar wind as radio emission. In agreement with analytical estimates, we find that magnetic pulses of 1047erg s−1can trigger relatively narrowband GHz emission with luminosities of approximately 1042erg s−1, sufficient to explain bright extragalactic FRBs. The mechanism provides a natural explanation for a downward frequency drift of burst signals, as well as the ∼100 ns substructure recently detected inFRB 20200120E.

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  5. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  6. Alfvén wave collisions are the primary building blocks of the non-relativistic turbulence that permeates the heliosphere and low- to moderate-energy astrophysical systems. However, many astrophysical systems such as gamma-ray bursts, pulsar and magnetar magnetospheres and active galactic nuclei have relativistic flows or energy densities. To better understand these high-energy systems, we derive reduced relativistic magnetohydrodynamics equations and employ them to examine weak Alfvénic turbulence, dominated by three-wave interactions, in reduced relativistic magnetohydrodynamics, including the force-free, infinitely magnetized limit. We compare both numerical and analytical solutions to demonstrate that many of the findings from non-relativistic weak turbulence are retained in relativistic systems. But, an important distinction in the relativistic limit is the inapplicability of a formally incompressible limit, i.e. there exists finite coupling to the compressible fast mode regardless of the strength of the magnetic field. Since fast modes can propagate across field lines, this mechanism provides a route for energy to escape strongly magnetized systems, e.g. magnetar magnetospheres. However, we find that the fast-Alfvén coupling is diminished in the limit of oblique propagation. 
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  7. Alfvén waves as excited in black hole accretion disks and neutron star magnetospheres are the building blocks of turbulence in relativistic, magnetized plasmas. A large reservoir of magnetic energy is available in these systems, such that the plasma can be heated significantly even in the weak turbulence regime. We perform high-resolution three-dimensional simulations of counter-propagating Alfvén waves, showing that an $E_{B_{\perp }}(k_{\perp }) \propto k_{\perp }^{-2}$ energy spectrum develops as a result of the weak turbulence cascade in relativistic magnetohydrodynamics and its infinitely magnetized (force-free) limit. The plasma turbulence ubiquitously generates current sheets, which act as locations where magnetic energy dissipates. We show that current sheets form as a natural result of nonlinear interactions between counter-propagating Alfvén waves. These current sheets form owing to the compression of elongated eddies, driven by the shear induced by growing higher-order modes, and undergo a thinning process until they break-up into small-scale turbulent structures. We explore the formation of current sheets both in overlapping waves and in localized wave packet collisions. The relativistic interaction of localized Alfvén waves induces both Alfvén waves and fast waves, and efficiently mediates the conversion and dissipation of electromagnetic energy in astrophysical systems. Plasma energization through reconnection in current sheets emerging during the interaction of Alfvén waves can potentially explain X-ray emission in black hole accretion coronae and neutron star magnetospheres. 
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  8. null (Ed.)