An assessment of the pulsar outer gap model – I. Assumptions, uncertainties, and implications on the gap size and the accelerating field
The popular outer gap model of magnetospheric emission from pulsars has been widely applied to explain the properties observed in γ-rays. However, its quantitative predictions rely on a number of approximations and assumptions that are usually overlooked. Here we examine them, reviewing the main ingredients entering the model, evaluating their range of uncertainties. Usually, in the quantitative applications of the model, key parameters like the radius of curvature and the energies of the interacting photons are taken to be a fixed, single value. Instead, here we explore their realistic ranges, and the impact of these on the consistency of the model itself. We conclude that the popular evaluation of the transfield size of the gap as a function of period and period derivative, is unreliable and affected by a huge dispersion. Last, the exploration of the possible values for the radius of curvature, the local magnetic field and other quantities deserve more attention for quantitative applications of the outer gap model, like the calculation of γ-ray spectra, which is the subject of an accompanying paper.