The first continuous optical monitoring of the transitional millisecond pulsar PSR J1023+0038 with Kepler.
We report on the first continuous, 80 days-long, optical monitoring of the transitional millisecond pulsar PSR J1023+0038 carried out in mid-2017 with Kepler in the K2 configuration, when an X-ray sub-luminous accretion disk was present in the binary. Flares lasting from minutes to 14 hours were observed for 15.6% of the time, a larger fraction than previously reported on the basis of X-ray and past optical observations, more frequently when the companion was at the superior conjunction of the orbit. A sinusoidal modulation at the binary orbital period was also present with an amplitude of ~16%, which varied by a few percent over timescales of days, and whose maximum took place 890 +/- 85 s earlier than the superior conjunction of the donor. We interpret these phenomena in terms of reprocessing of the X-ray emission by an asymmetrically heated companion star surface and/or a non-axisymmetric outflow possibly launched close to the inner Lagrangian point. Furthermore, the non-flaring average emission varied by up to ~ 40% over a time scale of days in the absence of correspondingly large variations of the irradiating X-ray flux. The latter suggests that the observed changes in the average optical luminosity might be due to variations of the geometry, size and/or mass accretion rate in the outer regions of the accretion disk.
Publisher URL: http://arxiv.org/abs/1801.04736
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