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Theses Doctoral

Inferences from Surface Thermal Emission of Young Neutron Stars

Alford, Jason

We consider the question of the magnetic field configuration of central compact objects (CCOs), specifically if their observed spectra allow uniform surface temperatures and carbon atmospheres. Although it is theoretically plausible that young hot neutron stars will deplete their hydrogen and helium atmospheres through diffusive nuclear burning, we find that there is no strong observational evidence to suggest that any particular CCO has a uniform temperature carbon atmosphere. In fact, they all may have small hot spots, similar to what we have measured on the surface of RX J0822−4300, and what has been observed in the cases of two other CCOs, 1E 1207.4−5209 and PSR J1852+0040. We find it is likely that most CCOs have small magnetic inclination angles.

We also study the magnetic field configurations of two particular young neutron stars through general relativistic modeling of the X-ray light curves produced by their thermal surface emission. In particular, we have analyzed over a decade of XMM-Newton observations of the central compact object RX J0822−4300 and also the transient magnetar XTEJ1810−197. We show that the CCO RX J0822−4300 has two heated regions with very dif-ferent sizes and temperatures, and we measure a significant deviation angle from a purelyantipodal geometry. This measurement can inform theoretical models of the strength and geometry of the crustal magnetic fields that conduct heat to toward these hot spots. We measure the size, temperature, angular emission pattern and viewing geometry toward the heated surface regions of the magnetar XTE J1810−197 in the years following its 2003 outburst. We demonstrate that, after the size and the temperature of the heated region shrank from what was measured in the initial outburst, the magnetar eventually entered a steady state with the hot spot luminosity powered by magnetic field decay. We find that the magnitude of the flux from the whole surface of XTE J1810−197, combined with several distance estimates, indicates that the mass of XTE J1810−197 must be significantly larger than the canonical 1.4 solar mass neutron star.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Halpern, Jules
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 24, 2020