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Publication archive

Published online 25 September 2013

It is thought that neutron stars in low-mass binary systems can accrete matter and angular momentum from the companion star and be spun-up to millisecond rotational periods. During the accretion stage, the system is called a low-mass X-ray binary, and bright X-ray emission is observed. When the rate of mass transfer decreases in the later evolutionary stages, these binaries host a radio millisecond pulsar whose emission is powered by the neutron stars rotating magnetic field. This evolutionary model is supported by the detection of millisecond X-ray pulsations from several accreting neutron stars and also by the evidence for a past accretion disc in a rotation-powered millisecond pulsar. It has been proposed that a rotation-powered pulsar may temporarily switch on during periods of low mass inflow in some such systems. Only indirect evidence for this transition has hitherto been observed. Here we report observations of accretion-powered, millisecond X-ray pulsations from a neutron star previously seen as a rotation-powered radio pulsar. Within a few days after a month-long X-ray outburst, radio pulses were again detected. This not only shows the evolutionary link between accretion and rotation-powered millisecond pulsars, but also that some systems can swing between the two states on very short timescales.
Published: 27 September 2013
Published online 25 September 2013

It is thought that neutron stars in low-mass binary systems can accrete matter and angular momentum from the companion star and be spun-up to millisecond rotational periods. During the accretion stage, the system is called a low-mass X-ray binary, and bright X-ray emission is observed. When the rate of mass transfer decreases in the later evolutionary stages, these binaries host a radio millisecond pulsar whose emission is powered by the neutron star's rotating magnetic field. This evolutionary model is supported by the detection of millisecond X-ray pulsations from several accreting neutron stars and also by the evidence for a past accretion disc in a rotation-powered millisecond pulsar. It has been proposed that a rotation-powered pulsar may temporarily switch on during periods of low mass inflow in some such systems. Only indirect evidence for this transition has hitherto been observed. Here we report observations of accretion-powered, millisecond X-ray pulsations from a neutron star previously seen as a rotation-powered radio pulsar. Within a few days after a month-long X-ray outburst, radio pulses were again detected. This not only shows the evolutionary link between accretion and rotation-powered millisecond pulsars, but also that some systems can swing between the two states on very short timescales.
Published: 27 September 2013
We perform an analysis of the diffuse low-frequency Galactic components in the southern part of the Gould Belt system (130° ≤ l ≤ 230° and −50° ≤ b ≤ −10°). Strong ultra-violet flux coming from the Gould Belt super-association is responsible for bright diffuse foregrounds that we observe from our position inside the system and that can help us improve our knowledge of the Galactic emission. Free-free emission and anomalous microwave emission (AME) are the dominant components at low frequencies (ν < 40 GHz), while synchrotron emission is very smooth and faint. We separated diffuse free-free emission and AME from synchrotron emission and thermal dust emission by using Planck data, complemented by ancillary data, using the correlated component analysis (CCA) component-separation method and we compared our results with the results of cross-correlation of foreground templates with the frequency maps. We estimated the electron temperature Te from Hα and free-free emission using two methods (temperature-temperature plot and cross-correlation) and obtained Te ranging from 3100 to 5200K for an effective fraction of absorbing dust along the line of sight of 30% (fd = 0.3). We estimated the frequency spectrum of the diffuse AME and recovered a peak frequency (in flux density units) of 25.5 ± 1.5 GHz. We verified the reliability of this result with realistic simulations that include biases in the spectral model for the AME and in the free-free template. By combining physical models for vibrational and rotational dust emission and adding the constraints from the thermal dust spectrum from Planck and IRAS, we are able to present a good description of the AME frequency spectrum for plausible values of the local density and radiation field.
Published: 29 August 2013
We present the scaling relation between Sunyaev-Zeldovich (SZ) signal and stellar mass for almost 260,000 locally brightest galaxies (LBGs) selected from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). These are predominantly the central galaxies of their dark matter halos. We calibrate the stellar-to-halo mass conversion using realistic mock catalogues based on the Millennium Simulation. Applying a multi-frequency matched filter to the Planck data for each LBG, and averaging the results in bins of stellar mass, we measure the mean SZ signal down to M ~ 2 × 1011 M, with a clear indication of signal at even lower stellar mass. We derive the scaling relation between SZ signal and halo mass by assigning halo properties from our mock catalogues to the real LBGs and simulating the Planck observation process. This relation shows no evidence for deviation from a power law over a halo mass range extending from rich clusters down to M500 ~ 2 × 1013 M, and there is a clear indication of signal down to M500 ~ 4 × 1012 M. Planck’s SZ detections in such low-mass halos imply that about a quarter of all baryons have now been seen in the form of hot halo gas, and that this gas must be less concentrated than the dark matter in such halos in order to remain consistent with X-ray observations. At the high-mass end, the measured SZ signal is 20% lower than found from observations of X-ray clusters, a difference consistent with the magnitude of Malmquist bias effects that were previously estimated for the X-ray sample.
Published: 29 August 2013
In the present work, we study the relations between the position of the plasmapause and the position of the radiation belt boundaries. The Cluster mission offers the exceptional opportunity to analyze those different regions of the inner magnetosphere with identical sensors on multiple spacecraft. We compare the positions of the radiation belt edges deduced from CIS (Cluster Ion Spectrometry) observations (electrons with energy >2 MeV) with the positions of the plasmapause derived from WHISPER (Waves of HIgh frequency and Sounder for Probing of the Electron density by Relaxation) data (electron plasma frequency). In addition, we compare those results with the edges positions determined from RAPID (Research with Adaptive Particle Imaging Detectors) observations (electrons with energy between 244.1 and 406.5keV). The period of 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2009 has been chosen for the analysis because at that time Cluster's perigee was located at lower radial distances than during the earlier part of the mission. The perigee was then as close as 2 RE, deep inside the plasmasphere and the radiation belts. This time period corresponds to a long solar activity minimum. Differences are observed between the radiation belt boundary positions obtained from the two different instruments: The radiation belt positions are related to the energy bands. The results show that the plasmapause position is more variable than the radiation belt boundary positions, especially during small geomagnetic activity enhancements. [Abstract truncated.]
Published: 20 July 2013

Published online 14 August 2013

Soft-gamma-ray repeaters (SGRs) and anomalous X-ray pulsars (AXPs) are slowly rotating, isolated neutron stars that sporadically undergo episodes of long-term flux enhancement (outbursts) generally accompanied by the emission of short bursts of hard X-rays. This behaviour can be understood in the magnetar model, according to which these sources are mainly powered by their own magnetic energy. This is supported by the fact that the magnetic fields inferred from several observed properties of SGRs and AXPs are greater than - or at the high end of the range of - those of radio pulsars. In the peculiar case of SGR 0418+5729, a weak dipole magnetic moment is derived from its timing parameters, whereas a strong field has been proposed to reside in the stellar interior and in multipole components on the surface. Here we show that the X-ray spectrum of SGR 0418+5729 has an absorption line, the properties of which depend strongly on the star's rotational phase. This line is interpreted as a proton cyclotron feature and its energy implies a magnetic field ranging from 2 × 1014 gauss to more than 1015 gauss.

Published: 16 August 2013
During the six Cassini Titan flybys T83-T88 (May 2012 to November 2012) the electron density in the ionospheric peak region, as measured by the radio and plasma wave science instrument/Langmuir probe, has increased significantly, by 15-30%, compared to previous average. These measurements suggest that a long-term change has occurred in the ionosphere of Titan, likely caused by the rise to the new solar maximum with increased EUV fluxes. We compare measurements from TA, TB, and T5, from the declining phase of solar cycle 23 to the recent T83-T88 measurements during cycle 24, since the solar irradiances from those two intervals are comparable. The peak electron densities normalized to a common solar zenith angle Nnorm from those two groups of flybys are comparable but increased compared to the solar minimum flybys (T16-T71). The integrated solar irradiance over the wavelengths 1-80nm, i.e., the solar energy flux, Fe, correlates well with the observed ionospheric peak density values. Chapman layer theory predicts that Nnorm ~ Fek, with k=0.5. We find observationally that the exponent k=0.54ý0.18. Hence, the observations are in good agreement with theory despite the fact that many assumptions in Chapman theory are violated. This is also in good agreement with a similar study by Girazian and Withers (2013) on the ionosphere of Mars. We use this power law to estimate the peak electron density at the subsolar point of Titan during solar maximum conditions and find it to be about 6500cm-3, i.e., 85-160% more than has been measured during the entire Cassini mission.
Published: 14 August 2013
There are very few reports of flare signatures in the solar irradiance at H I Lyman alpha at 121.5 nm, i.e. the strongest line of the solar spectrum. The LYRA radiometer onboard PROBA2 has observed several flares for which unambiguous signatures have been found in its Lyman-alpha channel. Here we present a brief overview of these observations followed by a detailed study of one of them: the M2 flare that occurred on 8 February 2010. For this flare, the flux in the LYRA Lyman-alpha channel increased by 0.6 %, which represents about twice the energy radiated in the GOES soft X-ray channel and is comparable with the energy radiated in the He ii line at 30.4 nm. The Lyman-alpha emission represents only a minor part of the total radiated energy of this flare, for which a white-light continuum was detected. Additionally, we found that the Lyman-alpha flare profile follows the gradual phase but peaks before other wavelengths. This M2 flare was very localized and had a very brief impulsive phase, but more statistics are needed to determine if these factors influence the presence of a Lyman-alpha flare signal strong enough to appear in the solar irradiance.
Published: 02 July 2013
The Sun Watcher with Active Pixels and Image Processing (SWAP) EUV imager onboard PROBA2 provides a non-stop stream of coronal extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) images at a cadence of typically 130 seconds. These images show the solar drivers of space-weather, such as flares and erupting filaments. We have developed a software tool that automatically processes the images and localises and identifies flares. On one hand, the output of this software tool is intended as a service to the Space Weather Segment of ESA's Space Situational Awareness (SSA) program. On the other hand, we consider the PROBA2/SWAP images as a model for the data from the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) instrument prepared for the future Solar Orbiter mission, where onboard intelligence is required for prioritising data within the challenging telemetry quota. In this article we present the concept of the software, the first statistics on its effectiveness and the online display in real time of its results. Our results indicate that it is not only possible to detect EUV flares automatically in an acquired dataset, but that quantifying a range of EUV dynamics is also possible. The method is based on thresholding of macropixelled image sequences. The robustness and simplicity of the algorithm is a clear advantage for future onboard use.
Published: 02 July 2013
We present a multi-wavelength study of the Magellanic Stream (MS), a massive gaseous structure in the Local Group that is believed to represent material stripped from the Magellanic Clouds. We use ultraviolet, optical and radio data obtained with HST/COS, VLT/UVES, FUSE, GASS, and ATCA to study metal abundances and physical conditions in the Stream toward the quasar Fairall 9. Line absorption in the MS from a large number of metal ions and from molecular hydrogen is detected in up to seven absorption components, indicating the presence of multi-phase gas. From the analysis of unsaturated S II absorption, in combination with a detailed photoionization model, we obtain a surprisingly high alpha abundance in the Stream toward Fairall 9 of [S/H] = -0.30 ± 0.04 (0.50 solar). This value is five times higher than what is found along other MS sightlines based on similar COS/UVES data sets. In contrast, the measured nitrogen abundance is found to be substantially lower ([N/H] = -1.15 ± 0.06), implying a very low [N/alpha] ratio of -0.85 dex. The substantial differences in the chemical composition of MS toward Fairall 9 compared to other sightlines point toward a complex enrichment history of the Stream. We favor a scenario, in which the gas toward Fairall 9 was locally enriched with alpha elements by massive stars and then was separated from the Magellanic Clouds before the delayed nitrogen enrichment from intermediate-mass stars could set in. Our results support (but do not require) the idea that there is a metal-enriched filament in the Stream toward Fairall 9 that originates in the LMC.
Published: 02 July 2013
SWAP images from PROBA2 taken at 174 Å in the Fe ix/x lines are compared with simultaneous slitless flash spectra obtained during the solar total eclipse of 11 July 2010. Myriad faint low-excitation emission lines together with the He i and He ii Paschen alpha chromospheric lines are recorded on eclipse spectra where regions of limb prominences are obtained with space-borne imagers. We analyzed a deep flash spectrum obtained by summing 80 individual spectra to evaluate the intensity modulations of the continuum. Intensity deficits are observed and measured at the prominences boundaries in both eclipse and SWAP images. The prominence cavities interpreted as a relative depression of plasma density, produced inside the corona surrounding the prominences, and some intense heating occurring in these regions, are discussed. Photometric measurements are shown at different scales and different, spectrally narrow, intervals for both the prominences and the coronal background.
Published: 02 July 2013
The Magellanic Stream (MS) is a massive and extended tail of multi-phase gas stripped out of the Magellanic Clouds and interacting with the Galactic halo. In this first paper of an ongoing program to study the Stream in absorption, we present a chemical abundance analysis based on HST/COS and VLT/UVES spectra of four active galactic nuclei (RBS 144, NGC 7714, PHL 2525, and HE 0056-3622) lying behind the MS. Two of these sightlines yield good MS metallicity measurements: toward RBS 144 we measure a low MS metallicity of [S/H] = [SII/HI] = -1.13 ± 0.16 while toward NGC 7714 we measure [O/H] = [OI/HI] = -1.24 ± 0.20. Taken together with the published MS metallicity toward NGC 7469, these measurements indicate a uniform abundance of ~0.1 solar along the main body of the Stream. This provides strong support to a scenario in which most of the Stream was tidally stripped from the SMC ~ 1.5-2.5 Gyr ago (a time at which the SMC had a metallicity of ~0.1 solar), as predicted by several N-body simulations. However, in Paper II of this series, we report a much higher metallicity (S/H = 0.5 solar) in the inner Stream toward Fairall 9, a direction sampling a filament of the MS that Nidever et al. claim can be traced kinematically to the Large Magellanic Cloud, not the Small Magellanic Cloud. This shows that the bifurcation of the Stream is evident in its metal enrichment, as well as its spatial extent and kinematics. Finally we measure a similar low metallicity [O/H] = [OI/HI] = -1.03 ± 0.18 in the vLSR = 150 km/s cloud toward HE 0056-3622, which belongs to a population of anomalous velocity clouds near the south Galactic pole. This suggests these clouds are associated with the Stream or more distant structures (possibly the Sculptor Group, which lies in this direction at the same velocity), rather than tracing foreground Galactic material.
Published: 02 July 2013
The Large Yield Radiometer (LYRA) is an XUV-EUV-MUV (soft X-ray to mid-ultraviolet) solar radiometer onboard the European Space Agency Project for On-Board Autonomy 2 (PROBA2) mission, which was launched in November 2009. LYRA acquires solar-irradiance measurements at a high cadence (nominally 20 Hz) in four broad spectral channels, from soft X-ray to MUV, which have been chosen for their relevance to solar physics, space weather, and aeronomy. We briefly review the design of the instrument, give an overview of the data products distributed through the instrument website, and describe how the data are calibrated. We also briefly present a summary of the main fields of research currently under investigation by the LYRA consortium.
Published: 02 July 2013
We analyze the variability of the spectral solar irradiance during the period from 7 January 2010 until 20 January 2010 as measured by the Herzberg channel (190-222 nm) of the Large Yield RAdiometer (LYRA) onboard PROBA2. In this period of time, observations by the LYRA nominal unit experienced degradation and the signal produced by the Herzberg channel frequently jumped from one level to another. Both factors significantly complicate the analysis. We present the algorithm that allowed us to extract the solar variability from the LYRA data and compare the results with SORCE/SOLSTICE measurements and with modeling based on the Code for the Solar Irradiance (COSI).
Published: 02 July 2013
The Sun Watcher using Active Pixel system detector and Image Processing (SWAP) onboard the PRoject for OnBoard Autonomy-2 (PROBA2) spacecraft provides images of the solar corona in EUV channel centered at 174 Å. These data, together with the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) and the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) onboard Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), are used to study the dynamics of coronal bright points. The evolution of the magnetic polarities and associated changes in morphology are studied using magnetograms and multi-wavelength imaging. The morphology of the bright points seen in low-resolution SWAP images and high-resolution AIA images show different structures, whereas the intensity variations with time show similar trends in both SWAP 174 Å and AIA 171 Å channels. We observe that bright points are seen in EUV channels corresponding to a magnetic flux of the order of 1018 Mx. We find that there exists a good correlation between total emission from the bright point in several UV-EUV channels and total unsigned photospheric magnetic flux above certain thresholds. The bright points also show periodic brightenings, and we have attempted to find the oscillation periods in bright points and their connection to magnetic-flux changes. The observed periods are generally long (10-25 minutes) and there is an indication that the intensity oscillations may be generated by repeated magnetic reconnection.
Published: 02 July 2013
We analyze the light curves of the recent solar eclipses measured by the Herzberg channel (200-220 nm) of the Large Yield RAdiometer (LYRA) onboard Project for OnBoard Autonomy (PROBA2). The measurements allow us to accurately retrieve the center-to-limb variations (CLV) of the solar brightness. The formation height of the radiation depends on the observing angle, so the examination of the CLV provide information about a broad range of heights in the solar atmosphere. We employ the 1D NLTE radiative transfer COde for Solar Irradiance (COSI) to model the measured light curves and corresponding CLV dependencies. The modeling is used to test and constrain the existing 1D models of the solar atmosphere, e.g. the temperature structure of the photosphere and the treatment of the pseudo-continuum opacities in the Herzberg continuum range. We show that COSI can accurately reproduce not only the irradiance from the entire solar disk, but also the measured CLV. Hence it can be used as a reliable tool for modeling the variability of the spectral solar irradiance.
Published: 02 July 2013
We analyze multi-wavelength and multi-viewpoint observations of a large-scale event viewed on 7 April 2011, originating from an active-region complex. The activity leads to a white-light jet being formed in the outer corona. The topology and evolution of the coronal structures were imaged in high resolution using the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) onboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). In addition, large field-of-view images of the corona were obtained using the Sun Watcher using Active Pixel System detector and Image Processing (SWAP) telescope onboard the PRoject for Onboard Autonomy (PROBA2) microsatellite, providing evidence for the connectivity of the coronal structures with outer coronal features that were imaged with the Large Angle Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO) C2 on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). The data sets reveal an Eiffel-tower type jet configuration extending into a narrow jet in the outer corona. The event starts from the growth of a dark area in the central part of the structure. The darkening was also observed in projection on the disk by the Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory-Ahead (STEREO-A) spacecraft from a different point of view. We assume that the dark volume in the corona descends from a coronal cavity of a flux rope that moved up higher in the corona but still failed to erupt. The quadrupolar magnetic configuration corresponds to a saddle-like shape of the dark volume and provides a possibility for the plasma to escape along the open field lines into the outer corona, forming the white-light jet.
Published: 02 July 2013
The identification of solar-wind sources is an important question in solar physics. The existing solar-wind models (e.g., the Wang-Sheeley-Arge model) provide the approximate locations of the solar wind sources based on magnetic field extrapolations. It has been suggested recently that plasma outflows observed at the edges of active regions may be a source of the slow solar wind. To explore this we analyze an isolated active region (AR) adjacent to small coronal hole (CH) in July/August 2009. On 1 August, Hinode/EUV Imaging Spectrometer observations showed two compact outflow regions in the corona. Coronal rays were observed above the active-region coronal hole (ARCH) region on the eastern limb on 31 July by STEREO-A/EUVI and at the western limb on 7 August by CORONAS-Photon/TESIS telescopes. In both cases the coronal rays were co-aligned with open magnetic-field lines given by the potential field source surface model, which expanded into the streamer. The solar-wind parameters measured by STEREO-B, ACE, Wind, and STEREO-A confirmed the identification of the ARCH as a source region of the slow solar wind. The results of the study support the suggestion that coronal rays can represent signatures of outflows from ARs propagating in the inner corona along open field lines into the heliosphere.
Published: 02 July 2013
We investigate the interaction of three consecutive large-scale coronal waves with a polar coronal hole, simultaneously observed on-disk by the Solar TErrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO)-A spacecraft and on the limb by the PRoject for On-Board Autonomy 2 (PROBA2) spacecraft on 27 January 2011. All three extreme ultraviolet (EUV) waves originate from the same active region, NOAA 11149, positioned at N30E15 in the STEREO-A field of view and on the limb in PROBA2. For the three primary EUV waves, we derive starting velocities in the range of approximately 310 km/s for the weakest up to approximately 500 km/s for the strongest event. Each large-scale wave is reflected at the border of the extended coronal hole at the southern polar region. The average velocities of the reflected waves are found to be smaller than the mean velocities of their associated direct waves. However, the kinematical study also reveals that in each case the ending velocity of the primary wave matches the initial velocity of the reflected wave. In all three events, the primary and reflected waves obey the Huygens-Fresnel principle, as the incident angle with approximately 10° to the normal is of the same magnitude as the angle of reflection. The correlation between the speed and the strength of the primary EUV waves, the homologous appearance of both the primary and the reflected waves, and in particular the EUV wave reflections themselves suggest that the observed EUV transients are indeed nonlinear large-amplitude MHD waves.
Published: 02 July 2013
Observations of the early rise and propagation phases of solar eruptive prominences can provide clues about the forces acting on them through the behavior of their acceleration with height. We have analyzed such an event, observed on 13 April 2010 by SWAP on PROBA2 and EUVI on STEREO. A feature at the top of the erupting prominence was identified and tracked in images from the three spacecraft. The triangulation technique was used to derive the true direction of propagation of this feature. The reconstructed points were fitted with two mathematical models: i) a power-law polynomial function and ii) a cubic smoothing spline, in order to derive the accelerations. The first model is characterized by five degrees of freedom while the second one is characterized by ten degrees of freedom. The results show that the acceleration increases smoothly, and it is continuously increasing with height. We conclude that the prominence is not accelerated immediately by local reconnection, but rather is swept away as part of a large-scale relaxation of the coronal magnetic field.
Published: 02 July 2013
16-Oct-2021 23:48 UT

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