Differential rotation in neutron stars: Magnetic braking and viscous damping

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Differentially rotating stars can support significantly more mass in equilibrium than nonrotating or uniformly rotating stars, according to general relativity. The remnant of a binary neutron star merger may give rise to such a "hypermassive" object. While such a star may be dynamically stable against gravitational collapse and bar formation, the radial stabilization due to differential rotation is likely to be temporary. Magnetic braking and viscosity combine to drive the star to uniform rotation, even if the seed magnetic field and the viscosity are small. This process inevitably leads to delayed collapse, which will be accompanied by a delayed gravitational wave burst and, possibly, a gamma-ray burst. We provide a simple, Newtonian MHD calculation of the braking of differential rotation by magnetic fields and viscosity. The star is idealized as a differentially rotating, infinite cylinder consisting of a homogeneous, incompressible conducting gas. We solve analytically the simplest case in which the gas has no viscosity and the star resides in an exterior vacuum. We treat numerically cases in which the gas has internal viscosity and the star is embedded in an exterior, low-density, conducting medium. Our evolution calculations are presented to stimulate more realistic MHD simulations in full 3 + 1 general relativity. They serve to identify some of the key physical and numerical parameters, scaling behavior, and competing timescales that characterize this important process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-408
Number of pages12
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 1
StatePublished - Nov 20 2000


  • Gamma rays: theory
  • Gravitation
  • MHD
  • Relativity
  • Stars: neutron
  • Stars: rotation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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