UCSC-SOE-10-35: The Neutron Star Mass Distribution

Bulent Kiziltan, Athanasios Kottas, Maria De Yoreo, and Stephen E. Thorsett
12/01/2010 09:00 AM
Applied Mathematics & Statistics
In recent years, the number of pulsars with secure mass measurements has increased
to a level that allows us to probe the underlying neutron star (NS) mass distribution in detail. We critically review the radio pulsar mass measurements. For the first time, we are able to analyze a sizable population of NSs with a flexible modeling approach that can effectively accommodate a skewed underlying distribution and asymmetric measurement errors. We find that NSs that have evolved through different evolutionary paths reflect distinctive signatures through dissimilar distribution peak and mass cutoff values. NSs in double neutron star and neutron star-white dwarf systems show consistent respective peaks at 1.33 Msun and 1.55 Msun suggesting significant mass accretion (Delta m ~ 0.22 Msun) has occurred during the spin-up phase. The width of the mass distribution implied by double NS systems is indicative of a tight initial mass function while the inferred mass range is significantly wider for NSs that have gone through recycling. We find a mass cutoff at ~ 2.1Msun for NSs with white dwarf companions which establishes a firm lower bound for the maximum NS mass. This rules out the majority of strange quark and soft equation of state models as viable configurations for NS matter. The lack of truncation close to the maximum mass cutoff along with the skewed nature of the inferred mass distribution both enforce the suggestion that the 2.1 Msun limit is set by evolutionary constraints rather than nuclear physics or general relativity, and the existence of rare super-massive NSs is possible.

REVISED September 9, 2013