Thursday, June 20, 2013

1306.4335 (Kyle Parfrey et al.)

Dynamics of Strongly Twisted Relativistic Magnetospheres    [PDF]

Kyle Parfrey, Andrei M. Beloborodov, Lam Hui
Magnetar magnetospheres are believed to be strongly twisted, due to shearing of the stellar crust by internal magnetic stresses. We present time-dependent axisymmetric simulations showing in detail the evolution of relativistic force-free magnetospheres subjected to slow twisting through large angles. When the twist amplitude is small, the magnetosphere moves quasi-statically through a sequence of equilibria of increasing free energy. At some twist amplitude the magnetosphere becomes tearing-mode unstable to forming a resistive current sheet, initiating large-scale magnetic reconnection in which a significant fraction of the magnetic free energy can be dissipated. This "critical" twist angle is insensitive to the resistive length scale. Rapid shearing temporarily stabilizes the magnetosphere beyond the critical angle, allowing the magnetosphere of a rapidly differentially rotating star to store, and dissipate, more free energy. In addition to these effects, shearing the surface of a rotating star increases the spindown torque applied to the star. If shearing is much slower than rotation, the resulting spikes in spindown rate can occur on timescales anywhere from the long twisting timescale to the stellar spin period, depending both on the stellar shear distribution and the existing distribution of magnetospheric twists. A model in which energy is stored in the magnetosphere, and released by a magnetospheric instability, therefore predicts large changes in the measured spindown rate before SGR giant flares.
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