Large high-precision X-ray timing of three millisecond pulsars with NICER: Stability estimates and comparison with radio

J. S. Deneva, P. S. Ray, A. Lommen, S. M. Ransom, S. Bogdanov, M. Kerr, K. S. Wood, Z. Arzoumanian, K. Black, J. Doty, K. C. Gendreau, S. Guillot, A. Harding, N. Lewandowska, C. Malacaria, C. B. Markwardt, S. Price, L. Winternitz, M. T. Wolff, L. GuillemotI. Cognard, P. T. Baker, H. Blumer, P. R. Brook, H. T. Cromartie, P. B. Demorest, M. E. Decesar, T. Dolch, J. A. Ellis, R. D. Ferdman, E. C. Ferrara, E. Fonseca, N. Garver-Daniels, P. A. Gentile, M. L. Jones, M. T. Lam, D. R. Lorimer, R. S. Lynch, M. A. McLaughlin, C. Ng, D. J. Nice, T. T. Pennucci, R. Spiewak, I. H. Stairs, K. Stovall, J. K. Swiggum, S. J. Vigeland, W. W. Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) is an X-ray astrophysics payload on the International Space Station. It enables unprecedented high-precision timing of millisecond pulsars (MSPs) without the pulse broadening and delays due to dispersion and scattering within the interstellar medium that plague radio timing. We present initial timing results from a year of data on the MSPs PSR B1937+21 and PSR J0218+4232, and nine months of data on PSR B1821-24. NICER time-of-arrival uncertainties for the three pulsars are consistent with theoretical lower bounds and simulations based on their pulse shape templates and average source and background photon count rates. To estimate timing stability, we use the σ z measure, which is based on the average of the cubic coefficients of polynomial fits to subsets of timing residuals. So far we are achieving timing stabilities σ z ≈ 3 ×10 -14 for PSR B1937+21 and on the order of 10 -12 for PSRs B1821-24 and J0218+4232. Within the span of our NICER data we do not yet see the characteristic break point in the slope of σ z ; detection of such a break would indicate that further improvement in the cumulative root-mean-square timing residual is limited by timing noise. We see this break point in our comparison radio data sets for PSR B1821-24 and PSR B1937+21 on timescales of >2 yr.

Original languageEnglish
Article number160
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2019


  • pulsars: general
  • pulsars: individual (PSR B1821-24, PSR B1937+21, PSR J0218+4232)
  • stars: neutron

Cite this