Disk-accreting magnetic neutron stars as high-energy particle accelerators

Russell J. Hamilton, Frederick K. Lamb, M. Coleman Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interaction of an accretion disk with the magnetic field of a neutron star produces large electromotive forces, which drive large conduction currents in the disk-magnetosphere-star circuit. Here we argue that such large conduction currents will cause microscopic and macroscopic instabilities in the magnetosphere. If the minimum plasma density in the magnetosphere is relatively low (≲109 cm-3), current-driven micro-instabilities may cause relativistic double layers to form, producing voltage differences in excess of 1012 V and accelerating charged particles to very high energies. If instead the plasma density is higher (≳109 cm-3), twisting of the stellar magnetic field is likely to cause magnetic field reconnection. This reconnection will be relativistic, accelerating plasma in the magnetosphere to relativistic speeds and a small fraction of particles to very high energies. Interaction of these high-energy particles with X-rays, γ-rays, and accreting plasma may produce detectable high-energy radiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-839
Number of pages3
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1994


  • Acceleration of particles
  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Gamma rays: theory
  • Plasmas
  • Radiation mechanisms: nonthermal
  • Stars: neutron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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