Colloquium

Building Pulsar Magnetospheres From Scratch: Towards the Understanding of Pulsar Emission

Pulsars shine throughout the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to energetic gamma rays. Fifty years after their discovery, the origin of the emitted radiation is still poorly understood in spite of exquisite observations. To pierce the secret of pulsar emission, a highly complex modeling of the magnetosphere is needed, involving relativistic plasma physics and electrodynamics. The recent development of global particle-in-cell simulations allows, for the first time, to address this problem from first principles and self-consistently. Simulations show that the equatorial current sheet forming in the pulsar wind is the main site of particle acceleration, instead of electrostatic gaps within the co-rotating magnetosphere as usually assumed. Relativistic reconnection dissipates magnetic energy which is then efficiently channeled into energetic particles and high-energy synchrotron radiation. Synthetic lightcurves, spectra and polarization present robust features reminiscent of observed gamma-ray pulsars by the Fermi-LAT, opening up new perspectives for direct comparison between simulations and observations.

Followed by wine and cheese in Pupin 1332.

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