Candidate Isolated Neutron Stars and Other Optically Blank X-ray Fields Identified from the ROSAT All-Sky and Sloan Digital Sky Surveys

Research paper by Marcel A. Agueros, Scott F. Anderson, Bruce Margon, Bettina Posselt, Frank Haberl, Wolfgang Voges, James Annis, Donald P. Schneider, Jonathan Brinkmann

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.