The Theory of Pulsar Winds and Nebulae

John G. Kirk, Yuri Lyubarsky, Jerome Petri

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The theory of pulsar winds and the nebulae they energize is currently celebrating its golden jubilee. Ten years before the discovery of pulsars it was already apparent that the magnetic field and relativistic particles that produce the radiation of the Crab Nebula must have their origin in a central stellar object [104]. Today, about 50 similarly powered objects are known, and some of them, like the Crab, are detected and even resolved at all accessible photon frequencies, from the radio to TeV gamma-rays. The rotation of the central neutron star [98] is now universally accepted as the energy source fuelling these objects, but the details of the coupling mechanism are still unclear. In this article we review current theoretical ideas on this subject and their relationship to observations. We concentrate on the magneto-hydrodynamic description of the relativistic outflow driven by the pulsar and on the bubble it inflates in the surrounding medium.
The discussion is organised as follows: in Sect. 16.2 we consider the region between the surface of the neutron star and the light cylinder a surface of cylindrical radius rL = cP /(2π), where P is the pulsar period. The speed of an object that co-rotates with the star becomes luminal on this surface, and the wavelength of the radiation that would be emitted by the pulsar in vacuum is 2πrL. In the terminology of radiating systems, the region within the light cylinder is, therefore, the “near zone”, where the fields can be approximated as being in rigid co-rotation. Conventionally, this region is called the pulsar magnetosphere. It is thought to be the site of copious pair creation, and, in most theories, is the region in which the pulsed radiation itself is emitted.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNeutron Stars and Pulsars
EditorsWerner Becker
PublisherSpringer Berlin
ISBN (Electronic)9783540769651
ISBN (Print)9783540769644, 9783662501047
StatePublished - Jan 2009

Publication series

NameAstrophysics and Space Science Library
ISSN (Print)0067-0057
ISSN (Electronic)2214-7985


  • Neutron Star
  • Wind Zone
  • Current Sheet
  • Shock Front
  • Lorentz Factor


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