Ioffe Physical Technical Institute
Department of Theoretical Astrophysics
Neutron Star Group

Subaru optical observations of the two middle-aged pulsars PSR B0656+14 and Geminga

Yu. A. Shibanov (1), Sergei V. Zharikov (2), Viktoria N. Komarova (3), Nobuyuki Kawai (4), Yuji Urata (5), Alexey B. Koptsevich (1), Vladimir V. Sokolov (3), Shinpei Shibata (6), Noriaki Shibazaki (7)
((1) Ioffe Inst., Russia, (2) OAN SMP UNAM, Mexico, (3) SAO RAS, Russia, (4) Tokyo Inst. of Techn., Japan, (5) RIKEN, Japan, (6) Yamagata Univ., Japan, (7) Rikkyo Univ., Japan)

We carried out a deep subarcsecond BRI imaging of the two middle-aged pulsars to establish their properties in the optical range. Both pulsars are detected at >10sigma level in all bands. Geminga is for the first time reliably detected in the I band with a magnitude of 25.10+/-0.14. We also reanalyze archival ESO/NTT and HST broadband data and find that some published fluxes for Geminga were estimated inaccurately. The resulting dereddened broadband spectra in the near-IR-UV range are analyzed and compared with available data from the radio through gamma-rays. The dereddened spectra of both pulsars are remarkably similar to each other and show significant flux increases towards the far-UV and near-IR, and a wide flux excess in V-I bands. This suggests a multicomponent structure of the optical emission. The nonthermal power law component of the pulsar magnetospheric origin dominates in the most part of the optical range. For PSR B0656+14 it is compatible with a low energy extension of the power law tail seen in hard X-rays. For Geminga the respective extension overshoots by a factor of 100 the nonthermal optical flux, which has a less steep spectral slope than in X-rays. This implies a spectral break at a photon energy of about 1 keV. The flux increases towards the far-UV are compatible with contributions of the Rayleigh-Jeans parts of the blackbody components from whole surfaces of the neutron stars dominating in soft X-rays. The V-I excess, which is most significant for PSR B0656+14, suggests a third spectral component of still unidentified origin. Faint, a few arcseconds in size nebulae extended perpendicular to the proper motion directions of the pulsars, are seen around both objects in our deepest I band images. They can be optical counterparts of the bow-shock head of Geminga and of the tentative pulsar wind nebula of PSR B0656+14 observed in X-rays.

The paper has been accepted for publication in A&A and published in astro-ph/0511311.

Last updated on Nov 9, 2005, by Yuri Shibanov