Uncovering Pulsar Dynamics and Evolution using VHE Gamma-Rays

Dr. Dave Kieda
Chairman, Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Utah

The first known neutron star pulsar, PSR J1921+2153, was discovered in 1967 by Burnell and Hewish using radio observations. Since these initial observations, combined radio, optical and X-ray observations have been used as the standard tools for discovery of nearly 2000 neutron star pulsars. The first radio-quiet/optically invisible neutron star pulsar, Geminga, was first detected in gamma-rays by SAS-2 in 1975. Recent observations of Very High Energy (VHE, E >1 GeV) gamma-rays by the FERMI satellite have extended the class of radio/optically quiet pulsars to the millisecond period range.In this colloquium, I will describe the electromagnetic emission and evolution mechanisms for neutron star pulsars, binary pulsars and their relationship to Pulsar Wind Nebulae (PWN). In particular, I will describe recent observations of the Geminga pulsar/PWN by the VERITAS VHE gamma-ray observatory, and the evolution of pulsar/PWN emission efficiency as a function of age through comparison with the radio-loud Crab and Vela pulsars/PWN.