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  1. Abstract

    In extreme scattering events, the brightness of a compact radio source drops significantly, as light is refracted out of the line of sight by foreground plasma lenses. Despite recent efforts, the nature of these lenses has remained a puzzle, because any roughly round lens would be so highly overpressurized relative to the interstellar medium that it could only exist for about a year. This, combined with a lack of constraints on distances and velocities, has led to a plethora of theoretical models. We present observations of a dramatic double-lensing event in pulsar PSR B0834+06 and use a novel phase-retrieval technique to show that the data can be reproduced remarkably well with a two-screen model: one screen with many small lenses and another with a single, strong one. We further show that the latter lens is so strong that it would inevitably cause extreme scattering events. Our observations show that the lens moves slowly and is highly elongated on the sky. If similarly elongated along the line of sight, as would arise naturally from a sheet of plasma viewed nearly edge-on, no large overpressure is required and hence the lens could be long-lived.

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  2. Abstract

    Context.By providing information about the location of scattering material along the line of sight (LoS) to pulsars, scintillation arcs are a powerful tool for exploring the distribution of ionized material in the interstellar medium (ISM). Here, we present observations that probe the ionized ISM on scales of ∼0.001–30 au.Aims.We have surveyed pulsars for scintillation arcs in a relatively unbiased sample with DM < 100 pc cm−3. We present multifrequency observations of 22 low to moderate DM pulsars. Many of the 54 observations were also observed at another frequency within a few days.Methods.For all observations, we present dynamic spectra, autocorrelation functions, and secondary spectra. We analyze these data products to obtain scintillation bandwidths, pulse broadening times, and arc curvatures.Results.We detect definite or probable scintillation arcs in 19 of the 22 pulsars and 34 of the 54 observations, showing that scintillation arcs are a prevalent phenomenon. The arcs are better defined in low DM pulsars. We show that well-defined arcs do not directly imply anisotropy of scattering. Only the presence of reverse arclets and a deep valley along the delay axis, which occurs in about 20% of the pulsars in the sample, indicates substantial anisotropy of scattering.Conclusions.The survey demonstrates substantial patchiness of the ionized ISM on both astronomical-unit-size scales transverse to the LoS and on ∼100 pc scales along it. We see little evidence for distributed scattering along most lines of sight in the survey.

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  3. Abstract

    The interstellar medium hosts a population of scattering screens, most of unknown origin. Scintillation studies of pulsars provide a sensitive tool for resolving these scattering screens and a means of measuring their properties. In this paper, we report our analysis of 34 yr of Arecibo observations of PSR B1133 + 16, from which we have obtained high-quality dynamic spectra and their associated scintillation arcs, arising from the scattering screens located along the line of sight to the pulsar. We have identified six individual scattering screens that are responsible for the observed scintillation arcs, which persist for decades. Using the assumption that the scattering screens have not changed significantly in this time, we have modeled the variations in arc curvature throughout the Earth’s orbit and extracted information about the placement, orientation, and velocity of five of the six screens, with the highest-precision distance measurement placing a screen at just5.460.59+0.54pc from the Earth. We associate the more distant of these screens with an underdense region of the Local Bubble.

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  4. Abstract High-sensitivity interstellar scintillation and polarization observations of PSR B0656+14 made at three epochs over a year using the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) show that the scattering is dominated by two different compact regions. We identify the one nearer to the pulsar with the shell of the Monogem Ring, thereby confirming the association. The other is probably associated with the Local Bubble. We find that the observed position angles of the pulsar spin axis and the spatial velocity are significantly different, with a separation of 19.°3 ± 0.°8, inconsistent with a previously published near-perfect alignment of 1° ± 2°. The two independent scattering regions are clearly defined in the secondary spectra, which show two strong forward parabolic arcs. The arc curvatures imply that the scattering screens corresponding to the outer and inner arcs are located approximately 28 pc from PSR B0656+14 and 185 pc from the Earth, respectively. Comparison of the observed Doppler profiles with electromagnetic simulations shows that both scattering regions are mildly anisotropic. For the outer arc, we estimate the anisotropy A R to be approximately 1.3, with the scattering irregularities aligned parallel to the pulsar velocity. For the outer arc, we compare the observed delay profiles with delay profiles computed from a theoretical strong-scattering model. Our results suggest that the spatial spectrum of the scattering irregularities in the Monogem Ring is flatter than Kolmogorov, but further observations are required to confirm this. 
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  5. Abstract Radio pulsar signals are significantly perturbed by their propagation through the ionized interstellar medium. In addition to the frequency-dependent pulse times of arrival due to dispersion, pulse shapes are also distorted and shifted, having been scattered by the inhomogeneous interstellar plasma, affecting pulse arrival times. Understanding the degree to which scattering affects pulsar timing is important for gravitational-wave detection with pulsar timing arrays (PTAs), which depend on the reliability of pulsars as stable clocks with an uncertainty of ∼100 ns or less over ∼10 yr or more. Scattering can be described as a convolution of the intrinsic pulse shape with an impulse response function representing the effects of multipath propagation. In previous studies, the technique of cyclic spectroscopy has been applied to pulsar signals to deconvolve the effects of scattering from the original emitted signals, increasing the overall timing precision. We present an analysis of simulated data to test the quality of deconvolution using cyclic spectroscopy over a range of parameters characterizing interstellar scattering and pulsar signal-to-noise ratio (S/N). We show that cyclic spectroscopy is most effective for high S/N and/or highly scattered pulsars. We conclude that cyclic spectroscopy could play an important role in scattering correction to distant populations of highly scattered pulsars not currently included in PTAs. For future telescopes and for current instruments such as the Green Bank Telescope upgraded with the ultrawide bandwidth receiver, cyclic spectroscopy could potentially double the number of PTA-quality pulsars. 
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  6. null (Ed.)