Pulsar Radio Emission Mechanism: Radio Nanoshots as a Low-frequency Afterglow of Relativistic Magnetic Reconnection

Alexander Philippov, Dmitri A. Uzdensky, Anatoly Spitkovsky, Benot T. Cerutti

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58 Scopus citations


In this Letter we propose that coherent radio emission of the Crab pulsar, other young energetic pulsars, and millisecond pulsars is produced in the magnetospheric current sheet beyond the light cylinder. We carry out global and local 2D kinetic plasma simulations of reconnection to illustrate the coherent emission mechanism. Reconnection in the current sheet beyond the light cylinder proceeds in the very efficient plasmoid-dominated regime, where the current layer gets fragmented into a dynamic chain of plasmoids that undergo successive coalescence. Mergers of sufficiently large plasmoids produce secondary perpendicular current sheets, which are also plasmoid unstable. Collisions of plasmoids with each other and with the upstream magnetic field eject fast magnetosonic waves, which propagate upstream across the background field and successfully escape from the plasma as electromagnetic waves that fall in the radio band. This model successfully explains many important features of the observed radio emission from the Crab and other pulsars with high magnetic field at the light cylinder: Phase coincidence with the high-energy emission, nanosecond duration (nanoshots), and extreme instantaneous brightness of individual pulses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL6
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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