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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The neutron star mass distribution

  • Author(s): Kiziltan, B
  • Kottas, A
  • De Yoreo, M
  • Thorsett, SE
  • et al.

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 NS and NS-white dwarf (WD) systems show consistent respective peaks at 1.33 M and 1.55 M, suggesting significant mass accretion (Δm 0.22 M) 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 2.1 M for NSs with WD 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 M limit is set by evolutionary constraints rather than nuclear physics or general relativity, and the existence of rare supermassive NSs is possible. © 2013. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved..

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