Binary and recycled pulsars: 30 years after observational discovery
Space Research Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, ul. Profsoyuznaya 84/32, Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation
Binary radio pulsars, first discovered by Hulse and Taylor in 1974 , are a unique tool for experimentally testing general relativity (GR), whose validity has been confirmed with a precision unavailable in laboratory experiments. In particular, indirect evidence of the existence of gravitational waves has been obtained. Radio pulsars in binary systems (which have come to be known as recycled) have completed the accretion stage, during which neutron star spins reach millisecond periods and their magnetic fields decay 2 to 4 orders of magnitude more weakly than ordinary radio pulsars. Among about a hundred known recycled pulsars, many have turned out to be single neutron stars. The high concentration of single recycled pulsars in globular clusters suggests that close stellar encounters are highly instrumental in the loss of the companion. A system of one recycled pulsar and one `normal’ one discovered in 2004 is the most compact among binaries containing recycled pulsars . Together with the presence of two pulsars in one system, this suggests new prospects for further essential improvements in testing GR. This paper considers theoretical predictions of binary pulsars, their evolutionary formation, and mechanisms by which their companions may be lost. The use of recycled pulsars in testing GR is discussed and their possible relation to the most intriguing objects in the universe — cosmic gamma-ray bursts — is examined.