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Theses Doctoral

Particle-in-Cell Simulations and their Applications to Magnetospheres of Neutron Stars

Chen, Yuran

Neutron stars are surrounded by dense magnetospheres with nontrivial magnetic field structure. They are sources of multi-band emission from radio waves to very high energy gamma-rays. Pulsar wind nebulae observations also show that a large number of e^± pairs flow from the neutron star, which are produced in the magnetosphere. The structure of the magnetosphere, the mechanism of pair production and particle acceleration in the magnetosphere, and how magnetic energy is converted to kinetic energy is a complex problem that only recently has started to be addressed fully from first principles. In this dissertation I describe how I developed a numerical code tailored to study this problem. A detailed description of the code and method is given, then it is used to study the pair discharge mechanism in the magnetosphere of rotating neutron stars whose rotating axis is aligned with the magnetic axis. It was found that to form the an active magnetosphere it is necessary to have pair creation all the way towards the light cylinder. In the dissertation I classify the pulsars into two classes, and describe their differences. The magnetospheres of magnetars are believed to be different from ordinary pulsars, in that they are sustained not by the rotation of the star, but by a twist launched from the stellar surface due to some sudden breakdown of the crust. I apply the same numerical tool to study the particle acceleration and pair creation mechanism in the twisted magnetosphere of the magnetar, showing where the gap is, and how the magnetosphere evolves over time. The magnetic twist was found to live much longer than the Alfvén time of the system, and slowly dissipates through developing a cavity in the inner magnetosphere. This not only explains the long term evolution of the magnetar lightcurve after an outburst, but also explains the observed evolution hotspots on the stellar surface.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Beloborodov, Andrei M.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 20, 2017