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Many faces of young neutron stars


Vasisht, Gautam (1996) Many faces of young neutron stars. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/m11k-ex13.


The hardware aspect of this thesis consists in the design, fabrication and assembly of twin analog Flexible Filter Banks at Caltech. These are user-friendly, workhorse, radio-pulsar search and timing instruments. Novel features include the flexibility in configuring channel center-frequencies and widths, the rapid sampling down to 25 μs and a total instrument bandwidth ranging from a narrow 0.2 MHz to a mammoth 100 MHz. Frequency synthesis is used to downconvert, detect and sample the telescope receiver bandpass as 32 separate time-series in each polarization. The collected data are later subjected to standard pulsar search and timing algorithms in software.

The vital scientific issue addressed here is the nature of young neutron stars. In the standard picture, young neutron stars are rapidly spinning radio-luminous pulsars, which may also display pulsed emission at high X-ray and γ-ray energies. However there is no evidence that all neutron stars are born according to this standard picture. We present radio or X-ray investigations of steady nebular emission produced by three clearly non-standard and ill-understood objects. In all likelihood, these are young neutron stars, a notion upheld by their association with young Galactic supernova remnants.

Based on its display of high energy transients, the soft γ-ray repeater SGR 1806-20 is posited to be a seismically active "magnetar", i.e., a neutron star with a super-strong magnetic field (10[superscript 15] G) nearly three orders of magnitude greater than pulsar dipolar fields. Our VLA observations of fleeting small-scale structure around SGR 1806-20 provide intriguing, although preliminary, support for the magnetar model. In time, similar observations could unravel the riddle of soft γ-ray repeaters and possibly establish the reality of magnetars.

X-ray observations of the remnant of the historical supernova of 386 A.D., SNR G 11.2-0.3 are presented. The nature of an embedded underlumnious plerion discovered in these observations argues for a central neutron star very different from the prototypical Crab pulsar. The urgency to undertake a large scale study of young and hollow Galactic shells in broadband X-rays with fine spatial resolution is elucidated.

X-ray spectroscopy of the object 1E 1207.4-5209 at the core of the large remnant PKS 1209-51/52 has revealed a non-thermal source with a very steep spectrum. After considering various scenarios for lE 1207.4-5209, we conclude that its spectral signature, its lack of optical emission and its position at the center of a supernova remnant make it a source similar to the mysterious anomalous X-ray pulsars.

A large and sensitive search for radio pulsar companions of massive stars was undertaken. Primary motivation stems from the recent discovery of binary radio pulsar B 1259-63 as the first member of such a population and a "missing link" in the current models of evolution. Prevalent expectations, based on binary evolution scenarios, suggested that many more such systems should exist and would be uncovered in sensitive targeted searches. Together with other smaller searches, this survey uncovered no pulsars orbiting early-type stars. We conclude that such binary systems must be rare.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Astronomy
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Kulkarni, Shrinivas R.
Group:Astronomy Department
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:8 April 1996
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-09172008-100913
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:3595
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:03 Nov 2008
Last Modified:16 Apr 2021 22:18

Thesis Files

PDF (Vasisht_g_1996.pdf) - Final Version
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