Filling the Magnetospheres of Weak Pulsars

Alexander Y. Chen, Fábio Cruz, Anatoly Spitkovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Recent advances in numerical algorithms and computational power have enabled first-principles simulations of pulsar magnetospheres using particle-in-cell techniques. These ab initio simulations seem to indicate that pair creation through photon-photon collision at the light cylinder is required to sustain the pulsar engine. However, for many rotation-powered pulsars, pair creation operates effectively only near the stellar surface where magnetic field is high. How these "weak pulsars" fill their magnetospheres without efficient photon-photon pair conversion in the outer magnetosphere is still an open question. In this paper, we present a range of self-consistent solutions to the pulsar magnetosphere that do not require pair production near the light cylinder. When pair production is very efficient near the star, the pulsar magnetosphere converges to previously reported solutions. However, in the intermediate regime, where pair supply is barely enough to sustain the magnetospheric current, we observe a time-dependent solution with a quasi-period about half of the rotation period. This new quasi-periodic solution may explain the observed pulsar death line without invoking multipolar components near the star, and can potentially explain the core versus conal emission patterns observed in pulsar radio signals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number69
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 20 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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