Reconnection in a striped pulsar wind

Y. Lyubarsky, J. G. Kirk

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289 Scopus citations


It is generally thought that most of the spin-down power of a pulsar is carried away in an MHD wind dominated by Poynting flux. In the case of an oblique rotator, a significant part of this energy can be considered to be in a low-frequency wave, consisting of stripes of a toroidal magnetic field of alternating polarity propagating in a region around the equatorial plane. Magnetic reconnection in such a structure has been proposed as a mechanism for transforming the Poynting flux into particle energy in the pulsar wind. We have reexamined this process and conclude that the wind accelerates significantly in the course of reconnection. This dilates the timescale over which the reconnection process operates so that the wind requires a much larger distance than was previously thought in order to convert the Poynting flux to particle flux. In the case of the Crab pulsar, the wind is still Poynting-dominated at the radius at which a standing shock is inferred from observation. An estimate of the radius of the termination shock for other pulsars implies that all except the millisecond pulsars have Poynting flux-dominated winds all the way out to the shock front.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-448
Number of pages12
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 1
StatePublished - 20 Jan 2001


  • MHD
  • Plasmas
  • Pulsars: general
  • Pulsars: individual (Crab Pulsar)
  • Stars: winds, outflows
  • Waves


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