Nonthermal electron acceleration via magnetic reconnection is thought to play an important role in powering the variable X-ray emission from radiatively inefficient accretion flows around black holes. The trans-relativistic regime of magnetic reconnection-where the magnetization sigma, defined as the ratio of magnetic energy density to enthalpy density, is similar to 1-is frequently encountered in such flows. By means of a large suite of two-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations, we investigate electron and proton acceleration in the trans-relativistic regime. We focus on the dependence of the electron energy spectrum on sigma and the proton beta (the ratio of proton thermal pressure to mio agnetic pressure). We find that the electron spectrum in the reconnection region is nonthermal and can be modeled as a power law. At low beta, the slope, p, is independent of beta and hardens with increasing sigma as p similar or equal to 1.8 + 0.7/root sigma. Electrons are primarily accelerated by the nonideal electric field at X-points, either in the initial current layer or in current sheets generated between merging magnetic islands. At higher values of beta, the electron power law steepens, and the electron spectrum eventually approaches a Maxwellian distribution for all values of sigma. At values of beta near beta(max) approximate to 1/4 sigma, when both electrons and protons are relativistically hot prior to reconnection, the spectra of both species display an additional component at high energies, containing a few percent of particles. These particles are accelerated via a Fermi-like process by bouncing between the reconnection outflow and a stationary magnetic island
Non-ideal magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) effects may play a significant role in determining the dynamics, thermal properties, and observational signatures of radiatively inefficient accretion flows onto black holes. In particular, particle acceleration during magnetic reconnection events may influence black hole spectra and flaring properties. We use representative general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic (GRMHD) simulations of black hole accretion flows to identify and explore the structures and properties of current sheets as potential sites of magnetic reconnection. In the case of standard and normal evolution (SANE) disks, we find that in the reconnection sites, the plasma beta ranges from 0.1 to 1000, the magnetization ranges from 10(-4) to 1, and the guide fields are weak compared with the reconnecting fields. In magnetically arrested (MAD) disks, we find typical values for plasma beta from 10(-2) to 10(3), magnetizations from 10(-3) to 10, and typically stronger guide fields, with strengths comparable to or greater than the reconnecting fields. These are critical parameters that govern the electron energy distribution resulting from magnetic reconnection and can be used in the context of plasma simulations to provide microphysics inputs to global simulations. We also find that ample magnetic energy is available in the reconnection regions to power the fluence of bright X-ray flares observed from the black hole in the center of the Milky Way.
The mass distribution of compact objects provides a fossil record that can be studied to uncover information on the late stages of massive star evolution, the supernova explosion mechanism, and the dense matter equation of state. Observations of neutron star masses indicate a bimodal Gaussian distribution, while the observed black hole mass distribution decays exponentially for stellar-mass black holes. We use these observed distributions to directly confront the predictions of stellar evolution models and the neutrino-driven supernova simulations of Sukhbold et al. We find strong agreement between the black hole and low-mass neutron star distributions created by these simulations and the observations. We show that a large fraction of the stellar envelope must be ejected, either during the formation of stellar-mass black holes or prior to the implosion through tidal stripping due to a binary companion, in order to reproduce the observed black hole mass distribution. We also determine the origins of the bimodal peaks of the neutron star mass distribution, finding that the low-mass peak (centered at similar to 1.4 M-circle dot) originates from progenitors with M-ZAMS approximate to 9-18 M-circle dot. The simulations fail to reproduce the observed peak of high-mass neutron stars (centered at similar to 1.8 M-circle dot) and we explore several possible explanations. We argue that the close agreement between the observed and predicted black hole and low-mass neutron star mass distributions provides new, promising evidence that these stellar evolution and explosion models capture the majority of relevant stellar, nuclear, and explosion physics involved in the formation of compact objects.
Wilson-Hodge, Colleen A.; Malacaria, Christian; Jenke, Peter A.; Jaisawal, Gaurava K.; Kerr, Matthew; Wolff, Michael T.; Arzoumanian, Zaven; Chakrabarty, Deepto; Doty, John P.; Gendreau, Keith C.; et al. (IOP PUBLISHING LTD, 2018-08-10)
Swift J0243.6+6124 is a newly discovered Galactic Be/X-ray binary, revealed in late 2017 September in a giant outburst with a peak luminosity of 2 x 10(39)(d/7 kpc)(2)erg s(-1) (0.1-10 keV), with no formerly reported activity. At this luminosity, Swift J0243.6+6124 is the first known galactic ultraluminous X-ray pulsar. We describe Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) and Fermi Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) timing and spectral analyses for this source. A new orbital ephemeris is obtained for the binary system using spin frequencies measured with GBM and 15-50 keV fluxes measured with the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory Burst Alert Telescope to model the system's intrinsic spin-up. Power spectra measured with NICER show considerable evolution with luminosity, including a quasi-periodic oscillation near 50 mHz that is omnipresent at low luminosity and has an evolving central frequency. Pulse profiles measured over the combined 0.2-100 keV range show complex evolution that is both luminosity and energy dependent. Near the critical luminosity of L similar to 10(38) erg s(-1), the pulse profiles transition from single peaked to double peaked, the pulsed fraction reaches a minimum in all energy bands, and the hardness ratios in both NICER and GBM show a turnover to softening as the intensity increases. This behavior repeats as the outburst rises and fades, indicating two distinct accretion regimes. These two regimes are suggestive of the accretion structure on the neutron star surface transitioning from a Coulomb collisional stopping mechanism at lower luminosities to a radiation-dominated stopping mechanism at higher luminosities. This is the highest observed (to date) value of the critical luminosity, suggesting a magnetic field of B similar to 10(13) G.
We present Chandra/ACIS-S subarray observations of the quiescent neutron star (NS) low-mass X-ray binaries X7 and X5 in the globular cluster 47 Tuc. The large reduction in photon pile-up compared to previous deep exposures enables a substantial improvement in the spectroscopic determination of the NS radius and mass of these NSs. Modeling the thermal emission from the NS surface with a non-magnetized hydrogen atmosphere and accounting for numerous sources of uncertainties, we obtain for the NS in X7 a radius of R = 11.1(-0.7)(+0.8) km for an assumed stellar mass of M = 1.4 M-circle dot (68% confidence level). We argue, based on astrophysical grounds, that the presence of a He atmosphere is unlikely for this source. Due to the excision of data affected by eclipses and variable absorption, the quiescent low-mass X-ray binary X5 provides less stringent constraints, leading to a radius of R = 9.6(-1.1)(+0.9) km, assuming a hydrogen atmosphere and a mass of M. =. 1.4 Me. When combined with all existing spectroscopic radius measurements from other quiescent low-mass X-ray binaries and Type I X-ray bursts, these measurements strongly favor radii in the 9.9-11.2 km range for a similar to 1.5 M-circle dot NS and point to a dense matter equation of state that is somewhat softer than the nucleonic ones that are consistent with laboratory experiments at low densities.
The Neutron-star Interior Composition Explorer is an X-ray astrophysics payload that will be placed on the International Space Station. Its primary science goal is to measure with high accuracy the pulse profiles that arise from the non-uniform thermal surface emission of rotation-powered pulsars. Modeling general relativistic effects on the profiles will lead to measuring the radii of these neutron stars and to constraining their equation of state. Achieving this goal will depend, among other things, on accurate knowledge of the source, sky, and instrument backgrounds. We use here simple analytic estimates to quantify the level at which these backgrounds need to be known in order for the upcoming measurements to provide significant constraints on the properties of neutron stars. We show that, even in the minimal-information scenario, knowledge of the background at a few percent level for a background-to-source countrate ratio of 0.2 allows for a measurement of the neutron star compactness to better than 10% uncertainty for most of the parameter space. These constraints improve further when more realistic assumptions are made about the neutron star emission and spin, and when additional information about the source itself, such as its mass or distance, are incorporated.
Observations of isolated neutron stars place constraints on the equation of state (EOS) of cold, neutron-rich matter, while nuclear physics experiments probe the EOS of hot, symmetric matter. Many dynamical phenomena, such as core-collapse supernovae, the formation and cooling of proto-neutron stars, and neutron star mergers, lie between these two regimes and depend on the EOS at finite temperatures for matter with varying proton fractions. In this paper, we introduce a new framework to accurately calculate the thermal pressure of neutron–proton–electron matter at arbitrary density, temperature, and proton fraction. This framework can be expressed using a set of five physically motivated parameters that span a narrow range of values for realistic EOS and are able to capture the leading-order effects of degenerate matter on the thermal pressure. We base two of these parameters on a new approximation of the Dirac effective mass, with which we reproduce the thermal pressure to within ≤ 0% for a variety of realistic EOS at densities of interest. Three additional parameters, which are based on the behavior of the symmetry energy near the nuclear saturation density, allow us to extrapolate any cold EOS in β-equilibrium to arbitrary proton fractions. Our model thus allows a user to extend any cold nucleonic EOS, including piecewise polytropes, to arbitrary temperature and proton fraction for use in calculations and numerical simulations of astrophysical phenomena. We find that our formalism is able to reproduce realistic finite-temperature EOS with errors of ≤ 20% and offers a 1–3 orders-of-magnitude improvement over existing ideal-fluid models.
Medeiros, Lia; Chan, Chi-Kwan; Özel, Feryal; Psaltis, Dimitrios; Kim, Junhan; Marrone, Daniel P.; Sa̧dowski, Aleksander (IOP PUBLISHING LTD, 2017-07-19)
Closure phases along different baseline triangles carry a large amount of information regarding the structures of the images of black holes in interferometric observations with the Event Horizon Telescope. We use long time span, high cadence, GRMHD+radiative transfer models of Sgr A* to investigate the expected variability of closure phases in such observations. We find that, in general, closure phases along small baseline triangles show little variability, except in the cases when one of the triangle vertices crosses one of the small regions of low visibility amplitude. The closure phase variability increases with the size of the baseline triangle, as larger baselines probe the small-scale structures of the images, which are highly variable. On average, the funnel-dominated MAD models show less closure phase variability than the disk-dominated SANE models, even in the large baseline triangles, because the images from the latter are more sensitive to the turbulence in the accretion flow. Our results suggest that image reconstruction techniques need to explicitly take into account the closure phase variability, especially if the quality and quantity of data allow for a detailed characterization of the nature of variability. This also implies that, if image reconstruction techniques that rely on the assumption of a static image are utilized, regions of the u-v space that show a high level of variability will need to be identified and excised.
The increasing number and precision of measurements of neutron star masses, radii, and, in the near future, moments of inertia offer the possibility of precisely determining the neutron star equation of state (EOS). One way to facilitate the mapping of observables to the EOS is through a parametrization of the latter. We present here a generic method for optimizing the parametrization of any physically allowed EOS. We use mock EOS that incorporate physically diverse and extreme behavior to test how well our parametrization reproduces the global properties of the stars, by minimizing the errors in the observables of mass, radius, and the moment of inertia. We find that using piecewise polytropes and sampling the EOS with five fiducial densities between similar to 1-8 times the nuclear saturation density results in optimal errors for the smallest number of parameters. Specifically, it recreates the radii of the assumed EOS to within less than 0.5 km for the extreme mock EOS and to within less than 0.12 km for 95% of a sample of 42 proposed, physically motivated EOS. Such a parametrization is also able to reproduce the maximum mass to within 0.04 M-circle dot and the moment of inertia of a 1.338 M-circle dot. neutron star to within less than 10% for 95% of the proposed sample of EOS.
Significant X-ray variability and flaring has been observed from Sgr A* but is poorly understood from a theoretical standpoint. We perform general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations that take into account a population of non-thermal electrons with energy distributions and injection rates that are motivated by PIC simulations of magnetic reconnection. We explore the effects of including these non-thermal electrons on the predicted broadband variability of Sgr A* and find that X-ray variability is a generic result of localizing non-thermal electrons to highly magnetized regions, where particles are likely to be accelerated via magnetic reconnection. The proximity of these high-field regions to the event horizon forms a natural connection between IR and X-ray variability and accounts for the rapid timescales associated with the X-ray flares. The qualitative nature of this variability is consistent with observations, producing X-ray flares that are always coincident with IR flares, but not vice versa, i.e., there are a number of IR flares without X-ray counterparts.
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