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Acceleration by pulsar winds in binary systems
Harding, Alice K.; Gaisser, T. K.
AA(NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD), AB(Delaware, University, Newark)
Astrophysical Journal, Part 1 (ISSN 0004-637X), vol. 358, Aug. 1, 1990, p. 561-574. (ApJ Homepage)
Publication Date:
NASA/STI Keywords:
Binary Stars, Electromagnetic Radiation, Electron-Positron Pairs, Pulsars, Relativistic Effects, Stellar Winds, Magnetic Dipoles, Particle Acceleration, Standing Waves
Bibliographic Code:


In the absence of accretion torques, a pulsar in a binary system will spin down due to electromagnetic dipole radiation, and the spin-down power will drive a wind of relativistic electron-position pairs. Winds from pulsars with short periods will prevent any subsequent accretion but may be confined by the companion star atmosphere, wind, or magnetosphere to form a standing shock. This paper investigates the possibility of particle acceleration at such a pulsar wind shock and the production of VHE and UHE gamma-rays from interactions of accelerated protons in the companion star's wind or atmosphere. It is found that, in close binaries containing active pulsars, protons will be shock accelerated to a maximum energy dependent on the pulsar spin-down luminosity. If a significant fraction of the spin-down power goes into particle acceleration, these systems should be sources of VHE and possibly UHE gamma-rays. The application of the pulsar wind model to binary sources such as Cygnus X-3 is discussed, as well as the possibility of observing VHE gamma-rays from known binary radio pulsar systems.

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