The pulsar contribution to the gamma-ray background

Claude André Faucher-Giguère*, Abraham Loeb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


We estimate the contribution of Galactic pulsars, both ordinary and millisecond pulsars (MSPs), to the high-energy ( > 100 MeV) γ-ray background. We pay particular attention to the high-latitude part of the background that could be confused with an extragalactic component in existing analyses that subtract a Galactic cosmic-ray model. Our pulsar population models are calibrated to the results of large-scale radio surveys and we employ a simple empirical γ-ray luminosity calibration to the spin-down rate that provides a good fit to existing data. We find that while ordinary pulsars are expected to contribute only a fraction ∼ 10-3 of the high-latitude γ-ray intensity (IX ∼ 1 × 10 -5 ph s-1 cm-2 sr-1), MSPs could provide a much larger contribution and even potentially overproduce it, depending on the model parameters. We explore these dependences using a range of MSP models as a guide to how γ-ray measurements can usefully constrain the MSP population. Existing γ-ray background measurements and source counts already rule out several models. Finally, we show how fluctuations in the γ-ray sky can be used to distinguish between different sources of the background.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number005
JournalJournal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010


  • Dark matter theory
  • Gamma ray theory
  • Millisecond pulsars
  • Neutron stars

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics


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