In the scenario of Paulo Freire and Thomas Tauris, a massive white dwarf star accretes matter and angular momentum from a normal companion star and grows beyond the critical Chandrasekhar mass limit.
MPIfR’s 100-m radio telescope near Bad Effelsberg seen from the visitors’ pavilion. The milli-second pulsar PSR J1946+3417 is one of 14 new pulsars recently discovered with this telescope
The final path of close binary stellar evolution according to the new scenario, starting with an X-ray binary with an accreting white dwarf and leading to a millisecond pulsar with a low-mass
Paulo Freire & Thomas Tauris
The new hypothesis makes several testable predictions about this recently discovered sub-class of millisecond pulsars. If confirmed, it opens up new avenues of research into the physics of stars, in particular the momentum kicks and mass loss associated with accretion induced collapse of massive white dwarfs.
Neutron stars can spin very fast – with a record value of 716 rotations per second. Such extreme objects are known as millisecond pulsars. Ever since their first discovery in 1982, it has been thought that they are old dead neutron stars that are lucky enough to be in binary star system.
As the companion evolves, it starts transferring matter onto the neutron star, spinning it up. This sort of system is known as an X-ray binary. Eventually the companion evolves into a white dwarf star, accretion stops and the neutron star becomes a millisecond pulsar, detectable through its radio pulsations. The orbits of these systems have very low eccentricities, meaning their orbits are extremely close to being perfect circles.
This is a consequence of the tidal circularization that happens during the mass transfer stage. Such a scenario has been confirmed both in theoretical work and in the discovery of several systems in different stages of their evolution from X-ray binaries to millisecond pulsars.
However, recent discoveries like PSR J1946+3417 are hinting at the possibility of different formation paths to millisecond pulsars. This source is among 14 new pulsars recently discovered with the Effelsberg 100-m radio telescope. Spinning 315 times per second, this is clearly a millisecond pulsar; however, its orbital eccentricity is 4 orders of magnitude larger than other systems with a similar orbital period. Its companion mass is about 0.24 solar masses, most likely a helium white dwarf. Interestingly enough, at about the same time, two systems with similar parameters were discovered using the Arecibo 305 m radio telescope.
It is quite possible that these binary systems started their evolution as triple systems which became dynamically unstable, as in the case of PSR J1903+0327, the first millisecond pulsar with an eccentric orbit. However, this process generates a wide variety of orbital periods, eccentricities and companion masses, quite unlike the three new discoveries, which are in everything very similar.
The new hypothesis includes the collapse of a massive white dwarf after accretion has terminated. It explains not only the similarity of eccentricities and companion masses, but also their values. "I was surprised when we looked at the calculated orbital periods and eccentricities predicted by our model", says Thomas Tauris, affiliated with both, Argelander-Institut für Astronomie & Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie (MPIfR) in Bonn. "It gives an exact match with the observations! Thus I knew then we were on to something, although small number statistics could still be at work."
The new theory builds on previous extensive computational work lead by Tauris. It makes a prediction for the new type of systems: they should have orbital periods between 10 and 60 days, but with a concentration towards the middle of that range, almost exactly as observed for the new systems.
"Our new approach is very elegant", says the lead author, Paulo Freire from MPIfR. "But whether Nature is really making millisecond pulsars this way is not known yet.''
For the next few years, the pulsar team at the Fundamental Physics In Radio Astronomy Group at MPIfR will be involved in testing the predictions of this scenario, particularly by doing optical follow-up studies and by making precise mass measurements of the pulsars and their companions, a key feature of this study. They will also attempt to find more of these pulsar systems using the Effelsberg radio telescope.
"The neat thing is that if the theory passes these tests, it will allow us to learn much more about the kicks and mass loss associated with accretion induced supernovae, and even about the interiors of neutron stars. It might thus be an extremely useful piece of understanding", concludes Paulo Freire.
The paper appears as a Letter in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Contact:Dr. Paulo Freire
Norbert Junkes | Max-Planck-Institut
Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation
12.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik
Telescopes team up to study giant galaxy
12.12.2017 | International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
12.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences
12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering