AAS 206th Meeting, 29 May - 2 June 2005
Session 17 Fundamental Physics with Millisecond Pulsars
Special Session, Monday, 10:00-11:30am, May 30, 2005, 102 C

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[17.02] A Rotational Speed Limit for Millisecond Pulsars

D. Chakrabarty (MIT)

Pulsars are highly-magnetized spinning neutron stars formed in the supernova collapse of massive stars at the end of their nuclear-burning lifetime. Some pulsars are spun up to millisecond periods by torques exerted by a binary companion star. These millisecond pulsars are spinnning near their centrifugal breakup limit, with surface velocities nearly 20 percent the speed of light. However, recent X-ray and radio timing measurements indicate that the pulsar spin frequency distribution cuts off sharply at the fast end (around 700 Hz), well before the predicted centrifugal break-up limit is reached. Although the braking mechanism that halts further spin-up is not yet known, one possible explanation is that angular momentum losses via gravitational radiation losses may be responsible. If so, then these gravitational waves should eventually be detectable by gravitaional-wave interferometers like LIGO.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #2
© 2005. The American Astronomical Soceity.