Gone with the Wind

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Science  01 Oct 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5693, pp. 21
DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5693.21b

The double pulsar system J0737-3039 consists of pulsar A (with a period of 23 ms) and pulsar B (2.8 s) in an eclipsing binary orientation. Such rotation-powered pulsars dissipate their rotational energy by giving off magnetized relativistic plasma winds, and, thanks to this unusual system, astronomers can now study these winds.

Kaspi et al. observed the system with the Green Bank Telescope and found that the eclipse of A lasted longer at lower frequencies. McLaughlin et al. have analyzed this data further and found that the eclipse of A is modulated by the orientation of the rotating magnetic axis of B. These two results are consistent with two similar models of the eclipse proposed by Lyutikov and by Arons et al. They suggest that B has a magnetosphere similar to Earth's, where the plasma wind from A acts like the solar wind; the wind from A collides with the magnetosphere of B, producing synchrotron absorption in the magnetosheath of B that blocks emissions from A, resulting in the eclipse. — LR

Astrophys. J. 613, L137 (2004); astro-ph/0408297; astro-ph/0403076; astro-ph/0404159.

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