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Astrophysicists Link Brightening of Pulsar Wind Nebula to Pulsar Spin-down Rate Transition

30 Aug 2019, 10:37 UTC
Astrophysicists Link Brightening of Pulsar Wind Nebula to Pulsar Spin-down Rate Transition
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Astrophysicists have discovered that the pulsar wind nebula (PWN) surrounding the famous pulsar B0540-69 brightened gradually after the pulsar experienced a sudden spin-down rate transition (SRT). This discovery, made by a group of astrophysicists led by GE Mingyu and LU Fangjun at the Institute of High Energy Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, provides important clues to the spin-down mechanism and the magnetic field structure of the pulsar, as well as the physical properties of the PWN. The results were published in Nature Astronomy.Pulsars are highly magnetized neutron stars born from supernova explosions of massive stars. They typically have radii about 10 km and surface magnetic field strengths around 1 trillion Gauss. According to classic pulsar theory, an isolated pulsar loses energy through magnetic dipole radiation and thus slows down.However, more and more theorists believe that the main way an isolated pulsar loses its rotational energy is through a relativistic wind consisting of electrons, positrons and possibly magnetic field. If the wind is strong enough, it will eventually form a detectable PWN through interaction with the surrounding materials. The famous Crab nebula is such a PWN, with a size of several light-years, i.e., about a hundred thousand times the ...

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