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Has the Sun really got a companion star?


HARRISON1 has pointed out that the six radio pulsars with the smallest observed spin-down rates () are grouped together in a relatively small region of the sky, roughly in the direction of the galactic centre. To explain this particular effect he suggested that the intrinsic values of Ṗ are actually larger than the observed ones, because the barycentre of the Solar System would be accelerated (10−6 cm s−2) in that direction. Harrison then suggested that this acceleration would be due to an hitherto undetected companion star of the Sun. He proposed a faint white, red (or even black) dwarf in a closed orbit, rather than a gas-accreting neutron star or black hole in an open orbit. We show here that a companion producing such an acceleration should almost certainly have been discovered because of its brightness in the infrared or visible region of the spectrum, depending on the character of the object. We conclude that Harrison's explanation is probably incorrect, and therefore we presume that the observed spin-down rates of these six pulsars (including the binary pulsar) are intrinsic and that their extreme values are due to the particular way in which the pulsars were formed. We show that the apparent clustering of these radio pulsars is a consequence of a strong observational selection effect and conclude that the distribution of all radio pulsars seems to be symmetric around the galactic centre.

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