Astrophysics and Space Science

, Volume 348, Issue 2, pp 441–458 | Cite as

Accretion, ablation and propeller evolution in close millisecond pulsar binary systems

  • Paul D. KielEmail author
  • Ronald E. Taam
Original Article


A model for the formation and evolution of binary millisecond radio pulsars in systems with low mass companions (<0.1 M) is investigated using a binary population synthesis technique. Taking into account the non conservative evolution of the system due to mass loss from an accretion disk as a result of propeller action and from the companion via ablation by the pulsar, the transition from the accretion powered to rotation powered phase is investigated. It is shown that the operation of the propeller and ablation mechanisms can be responsible for the formation and evolution of black widow millisecond pulsar systems from the low mass X-ray binary phase at an orbital period of ∼0.1 day. For a range of population synthesis input parameters, the results reveal that a population of black widow millisecond pulsars characterized by orbital periods as long as ∼0.4 days and companion masses as low as ∼0.005 M can be produced. The orbital periods and minimum companion mass of this radio millisecond pulsar population critically depend on the thermal bloating of the semi-degenerate hydrogen mass losing component, with longer orbital periods for a greater degree of bloating. Provided that the radius of the companion is increased by about a factor of 2 relative to a fully degenerate, zero temperature configuration, an approximate agreement between observed long orbital periods and theoretical modeling of hydrogen rich donors can be achieved. We find no discrepancy between the estimated birth rates for LMXBs and black widow systems, which on average are \({\sim}1.3\times10^{-5}~{\rm yr}^{-1}\) and \(1.3\times10^{-7}~{\rm yr}^{-1}\) respectively.


Binaries: close Magnetic fields Pulsars: general Pulsars: individual (PSR J1023+0038) Stars: neutron 



We thank the referee for his/her comments which have improved the clarity and presentation of this paper. This work was supported in part by the Theoretical Institute for Advanced Research in Astrophysics (TIARA) operated under the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics in Taipei, Taiwan and by NASA ATP Grants NNX09AO36G and NNX08AG66G and an NSF AST-0703950 to Northwestern University. We also thank Swinburne University of Technology for use of ‘the Green machine’, the supercomputer on which the simulations were completed. PDK thanks the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics for their hospitality during his visit.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) and Dept. of Physics and AstronomyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.Monash affiliate, Monash Centre for AstrophysicsMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics—TIARATaipeiTaiwan

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