Determining the rotation direction in pulsars

Renaud Gueroult, Yuan Shi, Jean Marcel Rax, Nathaniel J. Fisch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Pulsars are rotating neutron stars emitting lighthouse-like beams. Owing to their unique properties, pulsars are a unique astrophysical tool to test general relativity, inform on matter in extreme conditions, and probe galactic magnetic fields. Understanding pulsar physics and emission mechanisms is critical to these applications. Here we show that mechanical-optical rotation in the pulsar magnetosphere affects polarisation in a way which is indiscernible from Faraday rotation in the interstellar medium for typical GHz observations frequency, but which can be distinguished in the sub-GHz band. Besides being essential to correct for possible systematic errors in interstellar magnetic field estimates, this result offers a unique means to determine the rotation direction of pulsars, providing additional constraints on magnetospheric physics. With the ongoing development of sub-GHz observation capabilities, our finding promises discoveries, such as the spatial distribution of pulsars rotation directions, which could exhibit potentially interesting, but presently invisible, correlations or features.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3232
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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