Indexed on: 22 Nov '05Published on: 22 Nov '05Published in: Astrophysics
Only seven radio-quiet isolated neutron stars (INSs) emitting thermal X rays are known, a sample that has yet to definitively address such fundamental issues as the equation of state of degenerate neutron matter. We describe a selection algorithm based on a cross-correlation of the ROSAT All-Sky Survey (RASS) and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) that identifies X-ray error circles devoid of plausible optical counterparts to the SDSS g~22 magnitudes limit. We quantitatively characterize these error circles as optically blank; they may host INSs or other similarly exotic X-ray sources such as radio-quiet BL Lacs, obscured AGN, etc. Our search is an order of magnitude more selective than previous searches for optically blank RASS error circles, and excludes the 99.9% of error circles that contain more common X-ray-emitting subclasses. We find 11 candidates, nine of which are new. While our search is designed to find the best INS candidates and not to produce a complete list of INSs in the RASS, it is reassuring that our number of candidates is consistent with predictions from INS population models. Further X-ray observations will obtain pinpoint positions and determine whether these sources are entirely optically blank at g~22, supporting the presence of likely isolated neutron stars and perhaps enabling detailed follow-up studies of neutron star physics.