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Journal Article

Magnetically driven winds from differentially rotating neutron stars and X-ray afterglows of short gamma-ray bursts


Rezzolla,  Luciano
Astrophysical Relativity, AEI-Golm, MPI for Gravitational Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Siegel, D. M., Ciolfi, R., & Rezzolla, L. (2014). Magnetically driven winds from differentially rotating neutron stars and X-ray afterglows of short gamma-ray bursts. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 785: L6. doi:10.1088/2041-8205/785/1/L6.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-001A-1140-2
Besides being among the most promising sources of gravitational waves, merging neutron star binaries also represent a leading scenario to explain the phenomenology of short gamma-ray bursts (SGRBs). Recent observations have revealed a large subclass of SGRBs with roughly constant luminosity in their X-ray afterglows, lasting $10\!-\!10^4$ s. These features are generally taken as evidence of a long-lived central engine powered by the magnetic spin-down of a uniformly rotating, magnetized object. We propose a different scenario in which the central engine powering the X-ray emission is a differentially rotating hypermassive neutron star (HMNS) that launches a quasi-isotropic and baryon-loaded wind driven by the magnetic field, which is built-up through differential rotation. Our model is supported by long-term, three-dimensional, general-relativistic, and ideal magnetohydrodynamic simulations, showing that this isotropic emission is a very robust feature. For a given HMNS, the presence of a collimated component depends sensitively on the initial magnetic field geometry, while the stationary electromagnetic luminosity depends only on the magnetic energy initially stored in the system. We show that our model is compatible with the observed timescales and luminosities and express the latter in terms of a simple scaling relation.