Tue, 05 Dec 2023

Washington [US], August 17 (ANI): Researchers from the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) under the direction of Prof. HAN Jinlin have discovered distinct "dwarf pulses" from the bright pulsar PSR B211146 using the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST).

They have studied radio emissions in unprecedented detail and investigated the undiscovered physics in the magnetosphere.

The report was released in Nature Astronomy.

However, some older pulsars occasionally experience "pulse nulling," which is when they go quiet for a while. It's possible that the magnetosphere's circumstances are insufficient for particle production, that the magnetic field structure and radiation region have changed, or that the area for particle generation is being swamped by plasma generated elsewhere.

Because it is impossible to investigate the physical state of the pulsar's magnetosphere while radiation is quenched, the precise cause of the absence of pulsar radiation remains a mystery. Typically, pulsars send out periodic radio waves. PSR B211146 is a relatively old pulsar, and scientists have long known that emission from this pulsar often nulls for periods of time. However, dozens of unusually weak, very narrow pulses - previously unobserved - were detected during ordinary nulling periods when it was serendipitously observed as part of the Galactic Plane Pulsar Snapshot survey, a key project of the FAST to hunt pulsars.

To verify this new kind of emission state, the researchers observed this pulsar for two hours again on March 8, 2022. "Finally, we picked out 175 such narrow, weak pulses," said Dr CHEN Xue, the first author of the study.

According to Dr CHEN, such pulses stand out from normal pulses in terms of pulse width and energy, and thus have been named "dwarf pulses."Whereas normal individual pulses emit radiation through a "thunderstorm" of particles produced by copious discharges in regularly formed gaps near the pulsar's magnetic poles, dwarf pulses are produced by one or a few "raindrops" of particles generated by pair production in a fragile gap of this near-death pulsar.

These sporadic, weak, and narrow pulses constitute a new radiation state independent of normal pulses, and such pulses often exhibit a rarely reversed spectrum, i.e., they have much stronger emission at higher radio frequencies, something that is very rarely detected in such a distinguished timescale from astronomical sources.

"The properties of such dwarf pulses would be hard to be measured by other radio telescopes than FAST," said Prof. HAN, "and measurements of such a new population of dwarf pulses reveal that the magnetic field structure for the pulsar radiation remains unchanged even when the radiation is almost ceased.""In fact, a smaller number of dwarf pulses have also been detected from a few other pulsars," said YAN Yi, co-first author of the study. "Detailed studies of such a dwarf pulse population could uncover some mysteries of unknown pulsar radiation processing and reveal the extreme plasma state in the pulsar magnetosphere." (ANI)

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