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Numerical simulation of pulsar magnetospheres : detailed study of radiative processes

Abstract : Pulsars are highly magnetized fast rotating neutron stars producing a pulsed radiation. This thesis is dedicated to their magnetosphere, namely the zone surrounding the star and filled with a plasma dragged by the rotation of the star. It was shown as soon as 1969 that the magnetosphere must have vacuum gaps, where intense electric fields develop that are capable of accelerating the rarefied plasma to very high energies along the magnetic field. The curvature of the field lines, together with the rotation around the magnetic field, results in the so-called «  synchrocurvature » radiation. The energy is mostly radiated in gamma photons (γ). These photons may then be converted by the quantum processes γ photon-magnetic field or γ-γ in an electron-positron pair e+e-, each component of which then radiates at its turn which results in a cascade that provides plasma to the magnetosphere. This thesis particularly deals with two key phenomena of these cascades : synchrocurvature radiation and γγ pairs.The quantum theory of synchrocurvature radiation is developed for the first time from the first principles of quantum electrodynamics. The range of parameters compatible with the approximations of the derivation covers a wide range of physical conditions typical of pulsar magnetospheres. Quantum transitions are considered in the continuous limit when they imply a jump of the particle impulsion parallel to the magnetic field, and discrete when the jump is in the perpendicular direction. It results in a spectrum that asymptotically tends to the classical descriptions of curvature and synchrocurvature radiations but that presents very important deviations when the discrete transitions dominate the radiation.The γγ→e+e- process was studied in the case of the reaction of a gamma photon on a soft photon background. This mechanism is considered as potentially important when the magnetic field is nopt strong enough for the γ-magnetic field process to efficiently produce pairs. The soft background is most likely anisotropic, and that is why we developed a formalism allowing to arbitrarily take into account anisotropies, as well as produce the spectra of the outgoing particles so as to be able to feed the subsequent cascade consistently. Applied to a simple model of a star radiating thermal X rays, it results in a strong dependence of the reaction rate on the direction of the gamma photon.This thesis also includes a timing model of the millisecond pulsar in a triple system J0337+1715. This pulsar orbits with two white-dwarf stars, and their mutual interactions are not negligible. It follows that a numerical integration of the orbits was developed at Newtonian and first post-Newtonian orders. A complete model including the computation of delays from the star to the telescope was realized. This model is able to fit the timing data from the Nançay (France) radiotelecope with a standard deviation of less than 2µs. In principle, such a system allows to test the strong equivalence principle by a technique similar to that employed in Lunar-laser-ranging experiments, but with an unprecedented accuracy in the strong-field regime. This test demands a careful estimate of the uncertainties on each parameter, which we sample using a MCMC code. The validation of the code and the evaluation of the uncertainties are ongoing.
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Guillaume Voisin. Numerical simulation of pulsar magnetospheres : detailed study of radiative processes. Astrophysics [astro-ph]. Université Paris sciences et lettres, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017PSLEO015⟩. ⟨tel-01888379⟩

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