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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/W005468/1
Title: Extremes in Accretion Onto Strongly Magnetised Neutron Stars
Principal Investigator: Mushtukov, Dr A
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Department: Oxford Physics
Organisation: University of Oxford
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 October 2021 Ends: 30 September 2025 Value (£): 448,230
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Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
27 Jul 2021 Stephen Hawking Fellowship - R2 Interviews Announced
26 Jul 2021 Stephen Hawking Fellowship - R2 Interviews- Panel 1 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Ultraluminous X-ray sources are among the most mysterious objects in the Universe. The most discussed models to explain ultraluminous X-ray sources involve black holes. However, recently, ultraluminous X-ray sources hosting an X-ray pulsar, a neutron star pulsating in the X-rays, have been discovered. It implies that X-ray pulsars can be unbelievably bright, exceeding theoretical upper limits for luminosity by a factor of hundreds. X-ray pulsars are normally found in binary systems where a neutron star absorbs material from a companion. Fundamental aspects of the physics at work in X-ray pulsars are unknown. A coherent theoretical investigation of the physics of pulsating ultraluminous X-ray sources is at the core of this proposal. Ultraluminous sources hosting a neutron star give us a unique possibility to study physical processes in extreme conditions, which cannot reached in terrestrial laboratories and are a very challenging playground for theoreticians. Such a strong field influences the fundamental physics aspects, which have to be described in the framework of quantum electrodynamics. The luminosity of X-ray pulsars covers many orders of magnitude. The recent progress in observational astrophysics allows us to investigate another extreme: accretion at a very low level, which, surprisingly, can shed light on the physics of ultraluminous X-ray sources.

Analyzing the opposite extremes, I will build the unified theory of accretion onto strongly magnetised neutron stars. We will understand the physics standing behind the strongest and the brightest magnets in the Universe. We will be able to distinguish accreting neutron stars from black holes in ultraluminous X-ray sources, clarify the role of the brightest neutron stars in the evolution of binary systems, and understand the influence of the ultraluminous X-ray source phase on the population of gravitational waves sources. Using the pioneering observations of the upcoming first generation of X-ray polarimeters, we will probe the challenging and longstanding problem of fundamental physics: correctness of quantum electrodynamics in extremely strong magnetic fields.

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