Do pulsars rotate clockwise or counterclockwise?

Renaud Gueroult, Yuan Shi, Jean-Marcel Rax, & Nathaniel J. Fisch

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Mar 08, 2019
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Received Date: 18th February 19

Pulsars are rotating neutron stars which emit lighthouse-like beams. Owing to their unique properties, pulsars are a unique astrophysical tool to test general relativity, inform on matter at extreme densities, and probe galactic magnetic fields. Understanding pulsars physics and emission mechanisms is critical to these applications. Here we uncover that mechanical-optical rotation in the pulsars' magnetosphere affects polarisation in a way which is indiscernible from Faraday rotation in the interstellar medium for typical GHz observations frequency, but which can be distinguished in the sub-GHz band. Besides being essential to correct for possible systematic errors in interstellar magnetic field estimates, our novel interpretation of pulsar polarimetry data offers a unique means to determine whether pulsars rotate clockwise or counterclockwise, providing new constraints on magnetospheric physics and possible emission mechanisms. Combined with the ongoing development of sub-GHz observation capabilities, our finding promises new discoveries, such as the spatial distributions of clockwise rotating or counterclockwise rotating pulsars, which could exhibit potentially interesting, but presently invisible, correlations or features.

Read in full at arXiv.

This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

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Nature Communications

Nature Research, Springer Nature