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Simulations of the magnetospheres of accreting millisecond pulsars

Author(s): Parfrey, K; Spitkovsky, Anatoly; Beloborodov, AM

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Abstract: Accreting pulsars power relativistic jets, and display a complex spin phenomenology. These behaviours may be closely related to the large-scale configuration of the star’s magnetic field. The total torque experienced by the pulsar comprises spin-up and spin-down contributions from different bundles of magnetic field lines; the spin-down ‘braking’ torque is applied both by closed stellar field lines which enter the disc beyond the corotation radius, and those which are open and not loaded with disc material. The rates of energy and angular momentum extraction on these open field lines have lower bounds in the relativistic, magnetically dominated limit, due to the effective inertia of the electromagnetic field itself. Here we present the first relativistic simulations of the interaction of a pulsar magnetosphere with an accretion flow. Our axisymmetric simulations, with the pseudospectral PHAEDRA code, treat the magnetospheric, or coronal, regions using a resistive extension of force-free electrodynamics. The magnetic field is also evolved inside the disc, which is a defined volume with a specified velocity field and conductivity profile, found using an alpha-disc model. We study a range of disc alpha-parameters, thicknesses, and inner truncation radii. We find that a large fraction of the magnetic flux in the pulsar’s closed zone is opened by the intrusion of the disc, leading to an enhancement of the power extracted by the pulsar wind and the spin-down torque applied to the pulsar. In our simulations, most of the spin-down contribution to the stellar torque acts on open field lines. The efficiency of field-line opening is high in the simulations’ long-term (quasi-) steady states, which implies that a millisecond pulsar’s electromagnetic wind would be strong enough to power the observed neutron star radio jets, and would significantly affect the pulsar’s spin evolution.
Publication Date: 21-Apr-2017
Electronic Publication Date: Aug-2017
Citation: Parfrey, K, Spitkovsky, A, Beloborodov, AM. (Simulations of the magnetospheres of accreting millisecond pulsars
DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stx950
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Version: Final published version. Article is made available in OAR by the publisher's permission or policy.

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