HEAD 2000, November 2000
Session 36. Isolated Pulsars
Oral, Thursday, November 9, 2000, 1:00-2:30pm, Pago Pago Ballroom

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[36.03] The Vela Pulsar and Its Synchrotron Nebula

D. Helfand, E. Gotthelf, J. Halpern (Columbia University)

We present high-resolution Chandra X-ray observations of PSR0833-45, the 89 ms pulsar associated with the Vela supernova remnant. We have acquired two observations of the pulsar separated by one month to search for morphological changes in the pulsar and its environment following an extreme glitch in its rotation frequency. We find a well-resolved nebula with a morphology remarkably similar to the torus-like structure observed in the Crab Nebula, along with an axial Crab-like jet. The flux from the pulsar is found to be steady to within 0.75 %; the 3 sigma limit on the fractional increase in the pulsar's X-ray flux is <10-5 of the inferred glitch energy. We use this limit to constrain parameters of glitch models and neutron star structure. We do find a significant increase in the flux of the nebula's outer torus; if associated with the glitch, the inferred propogation velocity is ~.5c, similar to that seen in the brightening of the Crab Nebula wisps.

We propose an explanation for the X-ray structure of the Vela synchrotron nebula based on a model originally developed for the Crab Nebula. In this model, the bright, arc-shaped X-ray wisps are the shocked termination of a relativistic equatorial pulsar wind which is contained within the surrounding kidney-bean shaped synchrotron nebula which comprises the post-shock, but still relativistic, flow. In a departure from the Crab model, the magnetization parameter of the Vela pulsar wind is required to be of order unity; this is consistent with the simplest MHD transport of magnetic field from the pulsar to the nebula, where B ~ 4 x 10-4G.

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