Evidence for a Minimum Ellipticity in Millisecond Pulsars

G. Woan, M. D. Pitkin, B. Haskell, D. I. Jones, P. D. Lasky

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Neutron stars spin down over time due to a number of energy-loss processes. We provide tantalizing population-based evidence that millisecond pulsars (MSPs) have a minimum ellipticity of ≈ 10-9 around their spin axis and that, consequently, some spin down mostly through gravitational-wave emission. We discuss the implications of such a minimum ellipticity in terms of the internal magnetic field strengths and nuclear matter composition of neutron stars and show it would result in the Advanced LIGO and Virgo gravitational-wave detectors, or their upgrades, detecting gravitational waves from some known MSPs in the near future.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL40
Number of pages6
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2018


  • gravitational waves
  • pulsars: general
  • stars: magnetic field
  • stars: neutron

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