Journal Article

On the nature of the intermittent pulsar PSR B1931+24

N. Rea, M. Kramer, L. Stella, P. G. Jonker, C. G. Bassa, P. J. Groot, G. L. Israel, M. Méndez, A. Possenti and A. Lyne

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 391, issue 2, pages 663-667
Published in print December 2008 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online November 2008 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
On the nature of the intermittent pulsar PSR B1931+24

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PSR B1931+24 is the first intermittent radio pulsar discovered to date, characterized by a 0.8-s pulsation, which turns on and off quasi-periodically every ∼35 d, with a duty cycle of ∼10 per cent. Here, we present X-ray and optical observations of PSR B1931+24 performed with the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Isaac Newton Telescope, respectively. Simultaneous monitoring from the Jodrell Bank Observatory showed that this intermittent pulsar was in the radio-on phase during our observations. We do not find any X-ray or optical counterpart to PSR B1931+24, translating into an upper limit of ∼2 × 1031 erg s−1 on the X-ray luminosity, and of g′ > 22.6 on the optical magnitude. If the pulsar is isolated, these limits cannot constrain the dim X-ray and optical emission expected for a pulsar of this age (∼1.6 Myr). We discuss the possibility that the quasi-periodic intermittent behaviour of PSR B1931+24 is a result of the presence of a low-mass companion star or gaseous planet, tight with the pulsar in an eccentric orbit. In order to constrain the parameters of this putative binary system, we reanalysed the pulsar radio timing residuals. We found that (if indeed hosted in a binary system) PSR B1931+24 should have a very low-mass companion and an orbit of low inclination.

Keywords: pulsars: general; pulsars: individual: PSR B1931+24

Journal Article.  3959 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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