Modeling ofγ-ray pulsar light curves from force-free magnetosphere

Xue Ning Bai, Anatoly Spitkovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


The Fermi LAT has recently discovered dozens of new gamma-ray pulsars, and is destined to revolutionize our knowledge of pulsar science. The gamma-ray pulsar light curves carry important information about pulsar magnetospheric structure, which has commonly been modeled as a vacuum dipole. We briefly review theoretical models of gamma-ray pulsar light curves and point out their uncertainties due to the usage of vacuum field. We present the first results of pulsar high-energy light curve modeling using the more realistic force-free (FF) field taken from time-dependent FF simulations. With the FF field, we find the conventional slot-gap (two-pole caustic) and outer-gap models are no longer able to produce the commonly observed double-peak light curves. The most geometrically favored gamma-ray emission zone lies in a thin layer near the edge of the open flux tube. Emission from this “separatrix layer” generally produces two sharp peaks in the light curve, which are formed near and beyond the light cylinder. We show that most features and statistics from the currently available gamma-ray pulsar light curves can be well reproduced and explained in this framework. The location of this emission zone strongly suggests its association with the current sheet, thus calling for more detailed study of current sheet physics and particle acceleration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-163
Number of pages5
JournalAstrophysics and Space Science Proceedings
Issue number202589
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011
Event1st Sant Cugat Forum on Astrophysics, 2010 - Barcelona, Spain
Duration: Apr 12 2010Apr 16 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Spectroscopy
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics

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