Purdue University Graduate School
Mehta-thesis_4:17.pdf (12.08 MB)

Magnetohydrodynamics of magnetars' high-energy and radio emissions: A simulation study

Download (12.08 MB)
posted on 2021-05-07, 12:38 authored by Riddhi A MehtaRiddhi A Mehta

This article-based dissertation provides a review on the broad subject of magnetars-their characteristics, giant flares (GFs) and associated observations of X-ray, gamma-ray, and radio emissions and their proposed physical mechanisms. The primary purpose of this dissertation is to provide an extensive description of the two research projects I undertook during my tenure as a Graduate Research Assistant, under the guidance of my advisor. Broadly, my research was focused on building analytical models and running three-dimensional (3-D), high-resolution magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations using the astrophysical PLUTO code to investigate the physical mechanisms behind high-energy (X-ray and gamma-ray) and radio emissions associated with magnetar GFs using observational constraints. This, in turn, aided in either validating or disfavoring existing theories behind such energetic explosions.

Chapter 1 provides a review on magnetars, their GFs and associated high-energy and radio emissions, largely based on excellent reviews by [1]–[5]. I summarize interesting observational features of magnetars, specifically those of soft gamma-ray repeaters (SGRs) and anomalous X-ray pulsars (AXPs), along with known aspects of their X-ray and gamma-ray activity. I focus on the December 27, 2004 GF emitted by SGR 1806-20, the most energetic GF out of the three that occurred to date, describe its energetics and summarize existing theories behind the physical mechanisms that give rise to two emission characteristics associated with the GF - (i) quasi-periodic oscillations (QPOs) seen in the tail, and (ii) a radio afterglow detected a week after the GF. Lastly, I describe the methods I used to hypothesize the physical mechanisms behind QPOs and the radio emission and compare and contrast them with those suggested previously.

In chapter 2, I present a version of the research article in preparation and pending publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The work titled “Radio afterglow of magnetars’ giant flares”, undertaken under the supervision of Dr. Maxim Lyutikov and in collaboration with Dr. Maxim Barkov, explores the possible physical mechanisms behind the radio afterglow associated with the SGR 1806-20 GF using high-resolution 3-D MHD simulations.

In chapter 3, I present a version of the research article previously published by the Journal of Plasma Physics. The work titled “Tilting instability of magnetically confined spheromaks”, undertaken under the supervision of Dr. Maxim Lyutikov, in collaboration with Dr. Lorenzo Sironi and Dr. Maxim Barkov, investigates the tilting instability of a magnetically confined spheromak using 3-D MHD and relativistic particle-in-cell (PIC) simulations with an application to astrophysical plasmas, specifically to explain the QPOs arising in the tail of the SGR 1806-20 GF.

I summarize the main results and conclusions of the two research projects and describe future prospects in chapter 4, followed by appendices A and B which describe additional theoretical concepts and simulation results for a better understanding of the nature of radio afterglows associated with GFs, and structure of spheromaks. References are compiled after the appendices in order that they are first cited, followed by a brief autobiographical sketch, and a list of publications.


Sloan Fellowship

Cottrell Scholars Award

NSF PHY-1903412

NASA grants 80NSSC17K0757 and 80NSSC20K0910

NSF grants 1903332, 1908590, 10001562 and 10001521


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Physics and Astronomy

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Maxim Lyutikov

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Andrew Hirsch

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Dimitrios Giannios

Additional Committee Member 4

Dr. Danny Milisavljevic