Theses Doctoral

Magnetic Activity of Neutron Stars and Black Holes

Bransgrove, Ashley

This dissertation deals with the following topics related to the magnetic activity of neutron stars and black holes:

(I) Magnetic field evolution of neutron stars: We develop a numerical code which models the internal magnetic field evolution of neutron stars in axisymmetry. Our code includes the Hall drift and Ohmic effects in the crust, and the drift of superconducting flux tubes and superfluid vortices inside the liquid core. We enforce the correct hydromagnetic equilibrium in the core. We also model the elastic deformation of the crust and its feedback on the magnetic field evolution. We find that (i) The Hall attractor found by Gourgouliatos and Cumming in the crust also exists for B-fields which penetrate the core. (ii) If the flux tube drift is fast in the core, the pulsar magnetic fields are depleted on the Ohmic timescale (~150 Myr for hot neutron stars, or ~1.8 Gyr for cold neutron stars such as recycled pulsars, depending on impurity levels). (iii) The outward motion of superfluid vortices during the rapid spin-down of a young highly magnetized pulsar, can partially expel magnetic flux from the core when 𝐵 ≲ 10¹³ G.

(II) Neutron star quakes and glitches: We develop a theoretical model to explain the remarkable null pulse coincident with the 2016 glitch in Vela rotation. We propose that a crustal quake associated with the glitch strongly disturbed the Vela magnetosphere and thus interrupted its radio emission. We develop the first numerical code which models the global dynamics of a neutron star quake. Our code resolves the elasto-dynamics of the entire crust and follows the evolution of Alfven waves excited in the magnetosphere. We find that Alfven waves launched by the quake become de-phased in the magnetosphere, and generate strong electric currents, capable of igniting electric discharge. Most likely, the discharge floods the magnetosphere with electron-positron plasma, quenching the pulsar radio emission. The observed ~0.2 s duration of the disturbance indicates that the crust is magnetically coupled to the superconducting core of the neutron star.

(III) Pulsar magnetospheres and radio emission: We present an extreme high resolution kinetic plasma simulation of a pulsar magnetosphere using the Pigeon code. The simulation shows from first-principles how and where radio emission can be produced in pulsar magnetospheres. We observe the self-consistent formation of electric gaps which periodically ignite electron-positron discharge. The gaps form above the polar-cap, and in the bulk return-current. Discharge of the gaps excites electromagnetic modes which share several features with the radio emission of real pulsars. We also observe the excitation of plasma waves and charge bunches by streaming instabilities in the outer magnetosphere.

(IV) Black hole magnetospheres and no-hair theorem: We explore the evolution of highly magnetized magnetospheres on Kerr black holes by performing general relativistic kinetic plasma simulations with the GRZeltron code, and general relativistic resistive magnetohydrodynamics simulations with the BHAC code. We show that a dipole magnetic field on the event horizon opens into a split-monopole and reconnects in a plasmoid-unstable current-sheet. The plasmoids are ejected from the magnetosphere, or swallowed by the black hole. The no-hair theorem is satisfied, in the sense that all components of the stress-energy tensor decay exponentially in time. We measure the decay time of magnetic flux on the event horizon for plasmoid-dominated reconnection in collisionless and collisional plasma.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Beloborodov, Andrei M.
Levin, Yuri
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 28, 2023