Friday, July 5, 2013

1307.1409 (Heino Falcke et al.)

Fast radio bursts: the last sign of supramassive neutron stars    [PDF]

Heino Falcke, Luciano Rezzolla
Several fast radio bursts have been discovered recently, showing a bright, highly dispersed millisecond radio pulse. The high dispersion suggests sources at cosmological distances, implying an extremely high radio luminosity. We propose that a fast radio burst represents the final signal of a supramassive rotating neutron star that collapses to a black hole due to magnetic braking. The neutron star is initially above the critical mass for non-rotating models and is supported by rapid rotation. As magnetic braking constantly reduces the spin, the neutron star will suddenly collapse to a black hole several thousand to million years after its birth. We discuss several formation scenarios for supramassive neutron stars and estimate the possible observational signatures making use of the results of recent numerical general-relativistic calculations. While the collapse will hide the stellar surface behind an event horizon, the magnetic-field lines will snap violently. This can turn an almost ordinary pulsar into a bright radio "blitzar": Accelerated electrons from the travelling magnetic shock dissipate a significant fraction of the magnetosphere and produce a massive radio burst that is observable out to z>0.7. Only a few percent of the neutron stars needs to be supramassive in order to explain the observed rate. We suggest the intriguing possibility that fast radio bursts might trace the solitary and almost silent formation of stellar mass black holes at high redshifts. These bursts {could be an electromagnetic complement to gravitational-wave emission} and reveal a new formation and evolutionary channel for black holes and neutron stars that are not seen as gamma-ray bursts. If supramassive neutron stars are formed at birth and not by accretion, radio observations of these bursts could trace the core-collapse supernova rate throughout the universe.
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