Millisecond pulsars are neutron stars that attain their very fast rotation during a 108-109-yr-long phase of disk accretion of matter from a low-mass companion star 1,2. They can be detected as accretion-powered millisecond X-ray pulsars if towards the end of this phase their magnetic field is strong enough to channel the in-flowing matter towards their magnetic poles 3. When mass transfer is reduced or ceases altogether, pulsed emission generated by magnetospheric particle acceleration and powered by the star rotation is observed, preferentially in the radio 4 and gamma-ray 5 bands. A few transitional millisecond pulsars that swing between an accretion-powered X-ray pulsar regime and a rotationally powered radio pulsar regime in response to variations of the mass in-flow rate have been recently identified 6,7. Here, we report the detection of optical pulsations from a transitional millisecond pulsar. The pulsations were observed when the pulsar was surrounded by an accretion disk, and originated inside the magnetosphere or within a few hundreds of kilometres from it. Energy arguments rule out reprocessing of accretion-powered X-ray emission and argue against a process related to accretion onto the pulsar polar caps; synchrotron emission of electrons in a rotation-powered pulsar magnetosphere 8 seems more likely.
|Number of pages||5|
|Publication status||Published - 2017|
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
Di Salvo, T., Israel, G., Riverol, Di Fabrizio, Ambrosino, Cretaro, Ghedina, Burderi, Meddi, Stella, & Papitto (2017). Optical pulsations from a transitional millisecond pulsar. Nature Astronomy, 1, 854-858.