Durability of the Accretion Disk of Millisecond Pulsars

Science  24 May 1985:
Vol. 228, Issue 4702, pp. 1015-1016
DOI: 10.1126/science.228.4702.1015


Pulsars with pulsation periods in the millisecond range are thought to be neutron stars that have acquired an extraordinarily short spin period through the accretion of stellar material spiraling down onto the neutron star from a nearby companion. Nearly all the angular momentum and most of the mass of the companion star is transferred to the neutron star. During this process, wherein the neutron star consumes its companion, it is required that a disk of stellar material be formed around the neutron star. In conventional models it is supposed that the disk is somehow lost when the accretion phase is finished, so that only the rapidly spinning neutron star remains. However, it is possible that, after the accretion phase, a residual disk remains in stable orbit around the neutron star. The end result of such an accretion process is an object that looks much like a miniature (about 100 kilometers), heavy version of Saturn: a central object (the neutron star) surrounded by a durable disk.