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Toward Understanding Astrophysical Phenomena


Luan, Jing (2015) Toward Understanding Astrophysical Phenomena. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z97942NB .


Fast radio bursts (FRBs), a novel type of radio pulse, whose physics is not yet understood at all. Only a handful of FRBs had been detected when we started this project. Taking account of the scant observations, we put physical constraints on FRBs. We excluded proposals of a galactic origin for their extraordinarily high dispersion measures (DM), in particular stellar coronas and HII regions. Therefore our work supports an extragalactic origin for FRBs. We show that the resolved scattering tail of FRB 110220 is unlikely to be due to propagation through the intergalactic plasma. Instead the scattering is probably caused by the interstellar medium in the FRB's host galaxy, and indicates that this burst sits in the central region of that galaxy. Pulse durations of order ms constrain source sizes of FRBs implying enormous brightness temperatures and thus coherent emission. Electric fields near FRBs at cosmological distances would be so strong that they could accelerate free electrons from rest to relativistic energies in a single wave period. When we worked on FRBs, it was unclear whether they were genuine astronomical signals as distinct from 'perytons', clearly terrestrial radio bursts, sharing some common properties with FRBs. Recently, in April 2015, astronomers discovered that perytons were emitted by microwave ovens. Radio chirps similar to FRBs were emitted when their doors opened while they were still heating. Evidence for the astronomical nature of FRBs has strengthened since our paper was published. Some bursts have been found to show linear and circular polarizations and Faraday rotation of the linear polarization has also been detected. I hope to resume working on FRBs in the near future. But after we completed our FRB paper, I decided to pause this project because of the lack of observational constraints.

The pulsar triple system, J0733+1715, has its orbital parameters fitted to high accuracy owing to the precise timing of the central ms pulsar. The two orbits are highly hierarchical, namely Porb,1 << Porb,2, where 1 and 2 label the inner and outer white dwarf (WD) companions respectively. Moreover, their orbital planes almost coincide, providing a unique opportunity to study secular interaction associated purely with eccentricity beyond the solar system. Secular interaction only involves effect averaged over many orbits. Thus each companion can be represented by an elliptical wire with its mass distributed inversely proportional to its local orbital speed. Generally there exists a mutual torque, which vanishes only when their apsidal lines are parallel or anti-parallel. To maintain either mode, the eccentricity ratio, e1/e2, must be of the proper value, so that both apsidal lines precess together. For J0733+1715, e1 << e2 for the parallel mode, while e1 >> e2 for the anti-parallel one. We show that the former precesses ~ 10 times slower than the latter. Currently the system is dominated by the parallel mode. Although only a little anti-parallel mode survives, both eccentricities especially e1 oscillate on ~ 103yr timescale. Detectable changes would occur within ~ 1\yr. We demonstrate that the anti-parallel mode gets damped ~ 104 times faster than its parallel brother by any dissipative process diminishing e1. If it is the tidal damping in the inner WD, we proceed to estimate its tidal quantity parameter (Q) to be ~ 106, which was poorly constrained by observations. However, tidal damping may also happen during the preceding low-mass X-ray binary (LMXB) phase or hydrogen thermal nuclear flashes. But, in both cases, the inner companion fills its Roche lobe and probably suffers mass/angular momentum loss, which might cause e1 to grow rather than decay.

Several pairs of solar system satellites occupy mean motion resonances (MMRs). We divide these into two groups according to their proximity to exact resonance. Proximity is measured by the existence of a separatrix in phase space. MMRs between Io-Europa, Europa-Ganymede and Enceladus-Dione are too distant from exact resonance for a separatrix to appear. A separatrix is present only in the phase spaces of the Mimas-Tethys and Titan-Hyperion MMRs and their resonant arguments are the only ones to exhibit substantial librations. When a separatrix is present, tidal damping of eccentricity or inclination excites overstable librations that can lead to passage through resonance on the damping timescale. However, after investigation, we conclude that the librations in the Mimas-Tethys and Titan-Hyperion MMRs are fossils and do not result from overstability.

Rubble piles are common in the solar system. Monolithic elements touch their neighbors in small localized areas. Voids occupy a significant fraction of the volume. In a fluid-free environment, heat cannot conduct through voids; only radiation can transfer energy across them. We model the effective thermal conductivity of a rubble pile and show that it is proportional the square root of the pressure, P, for P≤ ε3μ where ε is the material's yield strain and μ its shear modulus. Our model provides an excellent fit to the depth dependence of the thermal conductivity in the top 140 cm of the lunar regolith. It also offers an explanation for the low thermal inertias of rocky asteroids and icy satellites. Lastly, we discuss how rubble piles slow down the cooling of small bodies such as asteroids.

Electromagnetic (EM) follow-up observations of gravitational wave (GW) events will help shed light on the nature of the sources, and more can be learned if the EM follow-ups can start as soon as the GW event becomes observable. In this paper, we propose a computationally efficient time-domain algorithm capable of detecting gravitational waves (GWs) from coalescing binaries of compact objects with nearly zero time delay. In case when the signal is strong enough, our algorithm also has the flexibility to trigger EM observation before the merger. The key to the efficiency of our algorithm arises from the use of chains of so-called Infinite Impulse Response (IIR) filters, which filter time-series data recursively. Computational cost is further reduced by a template interpolation technique that requires filtering to be done only for a much coarser template bank than otherwise required to sufficiently recover optimal signal-to-noise ratio. Towards future detectors with sensitivity extending to lower frequencies, our algorithm's computational cost is shown to increase rather insignificantly compared to the conventional time-domain correlation method. Moreover, at latencies of less than hundreds to thousands of seconds, this method is expected to be computationally more efficient than the straightforward frequency-domain method.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Fast radio burst, Mean motion resonance, Secular interaction, Rubble piles
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Astrophysics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Goldreich, Peter Martin
Thesis Committee:
  • Prince, Thomas A. (chair)
  • Ott, Christian D.
  • Chen, Yanbei
  • Goldreich, Peter Martin
Defense Date:22 May 2015
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06052015-153743425
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:9002
Deposited By: Jing Luan
Deposited On:17 Dec 2015 19:02
Last Modified:23 Aug 2017 16:39

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