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Observing and Modeling the Optical Counterparts of Short-Period Binary Millisecond Pulsars.

Schroeder, Joshua

In this dissertation, I explore the subject of short-period binary millisecond pulsars discovered by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and radio follow-up teams, and present observations of fields containing eight recently discovered short-period (Porb < 1 d) binary millisecond pulsars using the telescopes at MDM Observatory. The goal of these observations was to detect the optical counterparts of the binaries and, for the best-suited counterparts detected, to observe the photometric variation of the companion that happens over the course of the orbit in various filters. The hope was to then use the light curves to model the systems and obtain constraints on the mass of the neutron stars which are likely to be some of the most massive neutron stars in the galaxy. Optical counterparts to four of these systems are detected, one of which, PSR J2214+3000, is a novel detection. Additionally, I present the fully orbital phase-resolved B, V , and R light curves of the optical counterparts to two objects, PSR J1810+1744 and PSR J2215+5135, for which I employ the ELC model of Orosz & Hauschildt (2000) to measure the unknown system parameters. For PSR J1810+1744 I find that the system parameters cannot be fit even assuming that 100% of the spin-down luminosity of the pulsar is irradiating the secondary, and so radial velocity measurements of this object will be required for the complete solution. However, PSR J2215+5135 exhibits light curves that are extremely well constrained using the ELC model and we find that the mass of the neutron star is constrained by these and the radio observations to be MNS > 1.75 solar masses; at the 3-sigma level. I also find a discrepancy between the model temperature and the measured colors of this object which I interpret as possible evidence for an additional high-temperature source such as a quiescent disk. Given this and the fact that PSR J2215+5135 contains a relatively high mass companion (Mc > 0.1 solar masses), I propose that similar to the binary pulsar systems PSR J1023+0038 and IGR J18245-2452, the pulsar may transition between accretion- and rotation-powered modes.



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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Halpern, Jules
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 12, 2014