Persistent gravitational radiation from glitching pulsars

Andrew Melatos, James A Douglass, Tapio Petteri Simula

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Quantum mechanical simulations of neutron star rotational glitches, triggered by vortex avalanches in the superfluid stellar interior, reveal that vortices pin nonaxisymmetrically to the crust during the intervals between glitches. Hence a glitching neutron star emits a persistent current quadrupole gravitational wave signal at the star's rotation frequency, whose interglitch amplitude is constant and determined by the avalanche history since birth. The signal can be detected in principle by coherent searches planned for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), whether or not a glitch occurs during the observation, if the power-law distribution of glitch sizes extends up to ${\rm{\Delta }}{{\rm{\Omega }}}_{\mathrm{max}}/{\rm{\Omega }}\gtrsim {10}^{-6}{\eta }^{-1}{({\rm{\Delta }}\phi )}^{-1}{({\rm{\Omega }}/{10}^{3}\;\mathrm{rad}\;{{\rm{s}}}^{-1})}^{-3}(D/1\;\mathrm{kpc})$ in the targeted object, where ${\rm{\Delta }}{{\rm{\Omega }}}_{\mathrm{max}}$ and ${\rm{\Delta }}\phi $ are the largest angular velocity jump and avalanche opening angle, respectively, to have occurred in a glitch since birth, Ω is the angular velocity at present, η is the crustal fraction of the moment of inertia, and D is the distance from the Earth. A major caveat concerning detectability is whether the nonaxisymmetries observed in existing simulations with $\lesssim {10}^{3}$ vortices extrapolate to realistic neutron stars with $\gtrsim {10}^{15}$ vortices. The arguments for and against extrapolation are discussed critically in the context of avalanche dynamics in self-organized critical systems, but the issue cannot be resolved without larger simulations and tighter observational limits on $\eta {\rm{\Delta }}\phi {\rm{\Delta }}{{\rm{\Omega }}}_{\mathrm{max}}$ from future LIGO (non)detections and radio timing campaigns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • dense matter
  • gravitational waves
  • pulsars: general
  • stars: interiors
  • stars: neutron
  • stars: rotation

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