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A Periodically Active Pulsar Giving Insight into Magnetospheric Physics

Science  28 Apr 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5773, pp. 549-551
DOI: 10.1126/science.1124060

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Abstract

PSR B1931+24 (J1933+2421) behaves as an ordinary isolated radio pulsar during active phases that are 5 to 10 days long. However, when the radio emission ceases, it switches off in less than 10 seconds and remains undetectable for the next 25 to 35 days, then switches on again. This pattern repeats quasi-periodically. The origin of this behavior is unclear. Even more remarkably, the pulsar rotation slows down 50% faster when it is on than when it is off. This indicates a massive increase in magnetospheric currents when the pulsar switches on, proving that pulsar wind plays a substantial role in pulsar spin-down. This allows us, for the first time, to estimate the magnetospheric currents in a pulsar magnetosphere during the occurrence of radio emission.

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