Time-dependent force-free pulsar magnetospheres: Axisymmetric and oblique rotators

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Magnetospheres of many astrophysical objects can be accurately described by the low-inertia (or "force-free") limit of MHD. We present a new numerical method for the solution of equations of force-free relativistic MHD based on the finite-difference time-domain approach, with a prescription for handling the spontaneous formation of current sheets. We use this method to study the time-dependent evolution of pulsar magnetospheres in both aligned and oblique magnetic geometries. For the aligned rotator, we confirm the general properties of the time-independent solution of Contopoulos et al. For the oblique rotator, we present the three-dimensiional structure of the magnetosphere and compute, for the first time, the spin-down power of pulsars as a function of the inclination of the magnetic axis. We find that the pulsar spin-down luminosity is L ≈ (μ2Ω*4/ c3)(1 + sin2 α), where μ is the stellar dipole moment, Ω*, is the rotation frequency, and a is the magnetic inclination angle. We also discuss the effects of current sheet resistivity and reconnection on the structure and evolution of the magnetosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L51-L54
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 II
StatePublished - Sep 1 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • MHD
  • Pulsars: general
  • Stars: magnetic fields
  • Stars: neutron


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