Non-thermal radiation from a pulsar wind interacting with an inhomogeneous stellar wind
1 Departament d’Astronomia i MeteorologiaInstitut de Ciènces del Cosmos, Universitat de Barcelona, IEEC-UB, Martí i Franquès 1, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
2 Department of Physics, Rikkyo University 3-34-1, Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, 171-8501 Tokyo, Japan
3 Departament d’Astronomia i Astrofísica, Universitat de València, Av. Vicent Andrés Estellés s/n, 46100 Burjassot (València), Spain
4 Observatori Astronòmic, Universitat de València, C/ Catedràtic José Beltran, 2, 46980 Paterna (València), Spain
Received: 14 June 2016
Accepted: 11 November 2016
Context. Binaries hosting a massive star and a non-accreting pulsar are powerful non-thermal emitters owing to the interaction of the pulsar and the stellar wind. The winds of massive stars are thought to be inhomogeneous, which could have an impact on the non-thermal emission.
Aims. We study numerically the impact of the presence of inhomogeneities or clumps in the stellar wind on the high-energy non-thermal radiation of high-mass binaries hosting a non-accreting pulsar.
Methods. We compute the trajectories and physical properties of the streamlines in the shocked pulsar wind without clumps, with a small clump, and with a large clump. This information is used to characterize the injection and the steady state distribution of non-thermal particles accelerated at shocks formed in the pulsar wind. The synchrotron and inverse Compton emission from these non-thermal particles is calculated, accounting also for the effect of gamma-ray absorption through pair creation. A specific study is done for PSR B1259-63/LS2883.
Results. When stellar wind clumps perturb the two-wind interaction region, the associated non-thermal radiation in the X-ray band, of synchrotron origin, and in the GeV–TeV band, of inverse Compton origin, is affected by several equally important effects: (i) strong changes in the plasma velocity direction that result in Doppler boosting factor variations; (ii) strengthening of the magnetic field that mainly enhances the synchrotron radiation; (iii) strengthening of the pulsar wind kinetic energy dissipation at the shock, potentially available for particle acceleration; and (iv) changes in the rate of adiabatic losses that affect the lower energy part of the non-thermal particle population. The radiation above 100 GeV detected, presumably, during the post-periastron crossing of the Be star disc in PSR B1259-63/LS2883, can be roughly reproduced assuming that the crossing of the disc is modelled as the encounter with a large inhomogeneity.
Conclusions. Because of the likely diverse nature of clumps in the stellar wind, and hydrodynamical instabilities, the non-thermal radiation of high-mass binaries with a non-accreting pulsar is expected to be boosted somewhat chaotically, and to present different superimposed variability patterns. Some of the observed variability in gamma rays from PSR B1259-63/LS2883 is qualitatively reproduced by our calculations.
Key words: hydrodynamics / pulsars: general / radiation mechanisms: non-thermal / stars: winds, outflows / stars: massive
© ESO, 2017