Formation of short-period binary pulsars in globular clusters

Frederic A. Rasio*, Eric D. Pfahl, Saul Rappaport

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


We present a new dynamical scenario for the formation of short-period binary millisecond pulsars in globular clusters. Our work is motivated by the recent observations of 20 radio pulsars in 47 Tuc. In a dense cluster such as 47 Tuc, most neutron stars acquire binary companions through exchange interactions with primordial binaries. The resulting systems have semimajor axes in the range ∼0.1-1 AU and neutron star companion masses ∼1-3 M. For many of these systems, we find that when the companion evolves off the main sequence and fills its Roche lobe, the subsequent mass transfer is dynamically unstable. This leads to a common envelope phase and the formation of short-period neutron star-white dwarf binaries. For a significant fraction of these binaries, the decay of the orbit due to gravitational radiation will be followed by a period of stable mass transfer driven by a combination of gravitational radiation and tidal heating of the companion. The properties of the resulting short-period binaries match well those of observed binary pulsars in 47 Tuc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L47-L50
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 2
StatePublished - Mar 20 2000


  • Celestial mechanics, stellar dynamics
  • Globular clusters: general
  • Pulsars: general
  • Stars: neutron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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