Radiation from condensed surface of magnetic neutron stars.
VAN ADELSBERG M., LAI D., POTEKHIN A.Y. and ARRAS P.
Abstract (from CDS):
Recent observations show that the thermal X-ray spectra of many isolated neutron stars are featureless and in some cases (e.g., RX J1856.5-3754) well fit by a blackbody. Such a perfect blackbody spectrum is puzzling since radiative transport through typical neutron star atmospheres causes noticeable deviation from blackbody. Previous studies have shown that in a strong magnetic field, the outermost layer of the neutron star may be in a condensed solid or liquid form because of the greatly enhanced cohesive energy of the condensed matter. The critical temperature of condensation increases with the magnetic field strength and can be as high as 106 K (for Fe surface at B∼1013 G or H surface at B∼afewx1014 G). Thus the thermal radiation can directly emerge from the degenerate metallic condensed surface without going through a gaseous atmosphere. Here we calculate the emission properties (spectrum and polarization) of the condensed Fe and H surfaces of magnetic neutron stars in the regimes in which such condensation may be possible. For a smooth condensed surface, the overall emission is reduced from the blackbody by less than a factor of 2. The spectrum exhibits modest deviation from blackbody across a wide energy range and shows mild absorption features associated with the ion cyclotron frequency and the electron plasma frequency in the condensed matter. The roughness of the solid condensate (in the Fe case) tends to decrease the reflectivity of the surface and make the emission spectrum even closer to blackbody. We discuss the implications of our results for observations of dim, isolated neutron stars and magnetars.