Journal Article

The inner scale of the plasma turbulence towards PSR J1644−4559

Barney Rickett, Simon Johnston, Taryn Tomlinson and John Reynolds

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 395, issue 3, pages 1391-1402
Published in print May 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online May 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2009.14471.x
The inner scale of the plasma turbulence towards PSR J1644−4559

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By measuring the decaying shape of the scatter-broadened pulse from the bright distant pulsar PSR J1644−4559, we probe waves scattered at relatively high angles by very small spatial scales in the interstellar plasma, which allows us to test for a wavenumber cutoff in the plasma density spectrum. Under the hypothesis that the density spectrum is due to plasma turbulence, we can thus investigate the (inner) scale at which the turbulence is dissipated. We report observations carried out with the Parkes radio telescope at 660 MHz from which we find strong evidence for an inner scale in the range 70–100 km, assuming an isotropic Kolmogorov spectrum. By identifying the inner scale with the ion inertial scale, we can also estimate the mean electron density of the scattering region to be 5–10 cm−3. This is comparable with the electron density of H ii region G339.1−0.4, which lies in front of the pulsar, and so confirms that this region dominates the scattering. We conclude that the plasma inside the region is characterized by fully developed turbulence with an outer scale in the range 1–20 pc and an inner scale of 70–100 km. The shape of the rising edge of the pulse constrains the distribution of the strongly scattering plasma to be spread over about 20 per cent of the 4.6 kpc path from the pulsar, but with similarly high electron densities in two or more thin layers, their thicknesses can only be 10–20 pc.

Keywords: plasmas; turbulence; pulsars: individual: J1644-4559; ISM: general; H ii regions

Journal Article.  10368 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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