Accretion-powered Pulsations in an Apparently Quiescent Neutron Star Binary

Anne M Archibald, Slavko Bogdanov, Alessandro Patruno, Jason W T Hessels, Adam T Deller, Cees Bassa, Gemma H Janssen, Vicky M Kaspi, Andrew G Lyne, Ben W Stappers, Shriharsh P Tendulkar, Caroline R D'Angelo, Rudy Wijnands

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Accreting millisecond X-ray pulsars (AMXPs) are an important subset of low-mass X-ray binaries (LMXBs) in which coherent X-ray pulsations can be observed during occasional, bright outbursts (X-ray luminosity {L}{{X}}˜ {10}36 {erg} {{{s}}}-1). These pulsations show that matter is being channeled onto the neutron star’s magnetic poles. However, such sources spend most of their time in a low-luminosity, quiescent state ({L}{{X}}≲ {10}34 {erg} {{{s}}}-1), where the nature of the accretion flow onto the neutron star (if any) is not well understood. Here we report that the millisecond pulsar/LMXB transition object PSR J1023+0038 intermittently shows coherent X-ray pulsations at luminosities nearly 100 times fainter than observed in any other AMXP. We conclude that in spite of its low luminosity, PSR J1023+0038 experiences episodes of channeled accretion, a discovery that challenges existing models for accretion onto magnetized neutron stars.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    • accretion
    • accretion disks
    • pulsars: individual: PSR J1023+0038
    • X-rays: binaries


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