Intrabinary shock emission from "black widows" and "redbacks"

Mallory Roberts, M. A. Mclaughlin, P. Gentile, E. Aliu, J. W T Hessels, S. M. Ransom, P. S. Ray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Eclipsing millisecond pulsars in close (Pb < 1 day) binary systems provide a different view of pulsar winds and shocks than do isolated pulsars. Since 2009, the numbers of these systems known in the Galactic field has increased enormously. We have been systematically studying many of these newly discovered systems at multiple wavelengths. Typically, the companion is nearly Roche-lobe filling and heated by the pulsar which drives mass loss from the companion. The pulsar wind shocks with this material just above the surface of the companion. We discuss various observational properties of this shock, including radio eclipses, orbitally modulated X-ray emission, and the potential for γ-ray emission. Redbacks, whose companions are likely non-degenerate and significantly more massive, generally have more luminous shocks than black widows which have very low mass companions. This is expected since the more massive redback companions intercept a greater fraction of the pulsar wind. We also compare these systems to accreting millisecond pulsars, which may be progenitors of black widows and in some cases can pass back and forth between redback and accretion phases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-317
Number of pages5
JournalAstronomische Nachrichten
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2014



  • Gamma rays: observations
  • Pulsars: general
  • Radio continuum: stars
  • Shock waves
  • X-rays: binaries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Cite this

Roberts, M., Mclaughlin, M. A., Gentile, P., Aliu, E., Hessels, J. W. T., Ransom, S. M., & Ray, P. S. (2014). Intrabinary shock emission from "black widows" and "redbacks". Astronomische Nachrichten, 335(3), 313-317.