High-Energy Neutrinos from Millisecond Magnetars formed from the Merger of Binary Neutron Stars [HEAP]


The merger of a neutron star (NS) binary may result in the formation of a long-lived, or indefinitely stable, millisecond magnetar remnant surrounded by a low-mass ejecta shell. A portion of the magnetar’s prodigious rotational energy is deposited behind the ejecta in a pulsar wind nebula, powering luminous optical/X-ray emission for hours to days following the merger. Ions in the pulsar wind may also be accelerated to ultra-high energies, providing a coincident source of high energy cosmic rays and neutrinos. At early times, the cosmic rays experience strong synchrotron losses; however, after a day or so, pion production through photomeson interaction with thermal photons in the nebula comes to dominate. The pion products initially suffer from synchrotron cooling themselves, but after a few days have sufficient time to decay into energetic leptons and high-energy neutrinos. After roughly a week, the density of background photons decreases sufficiently for cosmic rays to escape the source without secondary production. These competing effects result in a neutrino light curve that peaks on a few day timescale near an energy of $\sim10^{18}$ eV. This signal may be detectable for individual mergers out to $\sim$ 10 Mpc by the IceCube Observatory (or up to 100 Mpc by next-generation neutrino telescopes), providing clear evidence for a long-lived NS remnant, the presence of which may otherwise be challenging to identify from the gravitational waves alone. Under the optimistic assumption that a sizable fraction of NS mergers produce long-lived magnetars, the cumulative cosmological neutrino background is estimated to be $\sim 10^{-8}\,\rm GeV\,cm^{-2}\,s^{-1}\,sr^{-1}$ for a NS merger rate of $10^{-7}\,\rm Mpc^{-3}\,yr^{-1}$ (depending also on the magnetar’s dipole field strength), overlapping with IceCube’s current sensitivity and within the reach of next-generation neutrino telescopes.

Read this paper on arXiv…

K. Fang and B. Metzger
Mon, 17 Jul 17

Comments: 13 pages, 5 figures