Universe  ID: 4644

Pulsar Current Sheets - Bulk Particle Trajectories

Scientists studying what amounts to a computer-simulated “pulsar in a box” are gaining a more detailed understanding of the complex, high-energy environment around spinning neutron stars, also called pulsars. The model traces the paths of charged particles in magnetic and electric fields near the neutron star, revealing behaviors that may help explain how pulsars emit gamma-ray and radio pulses with ultraprecise timing.

A pulsar is the crushed core of a massive star that exploded as a supernova. The core is so compressed that more mass than the Sun's squeezes into a ball no wider than Manhattan Island in New York City. This process also revvs up its rotation and strengthens its magnetic and electric fields.

Various physical processes ensure that most of the particles around a pulsar are either electrons or their antimatter counterparts, positrons. To trace the behavior and energies of these particles, the researchers used a comparatively new type of pulsar model called a “particle in cell” (PIC) simulation.

The PIC technique lets scientists explore the pulsar from first principles, starting with a spinning, magnetized meutron star. The computer code injects electrons and positrons at the pulsar's surface and tracks how they interact with the electric and magnetic fields. It's computationally intensive because the particle motions affect the fields and the fields affect the particles, and everything is moving near the speed of light.

This visualization shows the bulk particle flows, made up of low-energy electrons and positrons which comprise the majority of the particles. Darker blue trails represent slow electrons, darker red trails represent slow positrons. White trails indicate high speed (relativisitic) particles.
 

Used Elsewhere In


Related


Visualization Credits

Tom Bridgman (GST): Lead Data Visualizer
Scott Wiessinger (USRA): Lead Producer
Francis Reddy (University of Maryland College Park): Lead Writer
Gabriele Brambilla (University of Milan): Lead Scientist
Alice Harding (NASA/GSFC): Scientist
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

Science Paper:
Electron–Positron Pair Flow and Current Composition in the Pulsar Magnetosphere

Short URL to share this page:
http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4644

Data Used:
Brambilla Pulsar Model
Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details nor the data sets themselves on our site.

This item is part of these series:
Astrophysics Visualizations
Pulsar Current Sheets

Keywords:
SVS >> Electron
SVS >> Magnetic Fields
SVS >> Neutron Star
SVS >> Positron
SVS >> Hyperwall
SVS >> Pulsar
SVS >> Fermi
NASA Science >> Universe
SVS >> Gamma Ray
SVS >> Current Sheet