Wednesday, May 22, 2013

1305.4865 (A. T. Deller et al.)

VLBI astrometry of PSR J2222-0137: a pulsar distance measured to 0.4% accuracy    [PDF]

A. T. Deller, J. Boyles, D. R. Lorimer, V. M. Kaspi, M. A. McLaughlin, S. Ransom, I. H. Stairs, K. Stovall
The binary pulsar J2222-0137 is an enigmatic system containing a partially recycled millisecond pulsar and a companion of unknown nature. Whilst the low eccentricity of the system favors a white dwarf companion, an unusual double neutron star system is also a possibility, and optical observations will be able to distinguish between these possibilities. In order to allow the absolute luminosity (or upper limit) of the companion object to be properly calibrated, we undertook astrometric observations with the Very Long Baseline Array to constrain the system distance via a measurement of annual geometric parallax. With these observations, we measure the parallax of the J2222-0137 system to be 3.742 +0.013 -0.016 milliarcseconds, yielding a distance of 267.3 +1.2 -0.9 pc, and measure the transverse velocity to be 57.1 +0.3 -0.2 km/s. Fixing these parameters in the pulsar timing model made it possible to obtain a measurement of Shapiro delay and hence the system inclination, which shows that the system is nearly edge-on (sin i = 0.9985 +/- 0.0005). Furthermore, we were able to detect the orbital motion of J2222-0137 in our VLBI observations and measure the longitude of ascending node. The VLBI astrometry yields the most accurate distance obtained for a radio pulsar to date, and is furthermore the most accurate parallax for any radio source obtained at "low" radio frequencies (below ~5 GHz, where the ionosphere dominates the error budget). Using the astrometric results, we show the companion to J2222-0137 will be easily detectable in deep optical observations if it is a white dwarf. Finally, we discuss the implications of this measurement for future ultra-high-precision astrometry, in particular in support of pulsar timing arrays.
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