Pulsars and neutron stars/The Sun and interplanetary medium


The Sun significantly affects pulsar observations. It causes a delay in the pulse arrival times (the Shapiro delay) and increases the dispersion measure and rotation measure of a pulsar when the line-of-sight to the pulsar passes close to the Sun. The Sun and solar wind can therefore be studied through observations of pulsars, but also it needs to be accounted for when predicting pulse arrival times as part of the pulsar timing method.

Carrington RotationEdit

Modelling the solar windEdit

The simplest model, which is used in the standard pulsar timing software packages such as tempo and tempo2, is to assume that the solar wind is constant in time and spherically symmetric.


where   is the electron density at 1 AU from the Sun (in cm-3) and   is the pulsar-Sun-observatory angle.

A review of solar wind physics is available from Schwenn (1996). It is usually approximated as having two parts. One part is quasi-static and co-rotates with the Sun. The second part is transient and has time scales of hours to days (such transient events include coronal mass ejections). You et al. (2007) showed how the quasi-static part could be modelled. This part is divided into two components: "fast" and "slow".

The slow windEdit

The slow wind originates at low or middle solar latitudes. You et al. (2007) modelled the electron density in the slow wind as:


at a distance of   solar radii.

The fast windEdit

The fast wind originates in regions with open magnetic field geometry called "coronal holes". Guhathakurta & Fisher (1995, 1998) showed that the electron density in the fast wind is approximately


at a distance of   solar radii.

Estimating the solar wind properties using pulsar observationsEdit

Electron densitiesEdit

Magnetic fieldEdit