Observations of cooling neutron stars

Research paper by J. E. Truemper

Indexed on: 12 May '05Published on: 12 May '05Published in: Astrophysics


Observations of cooling neutron stars allow to measure photospheric radii and to constrain the equation of state of nuclear matter at high densities. In this paper we concentrate on neutron stars, which show thermal (photospheric) X-ray emission and have measured distances. After a short summary of the radio pulsars falling into this category we review the observational data of the 7 radio quiet isolated neutron stars discovered by ROSAT which have been studied in detail by Chandra, XMM-Newton and optical observations. Their spectra show blackbody temperatures between 0.5 and 1 million Kelvin and an optical excess of a factor of 5-10 over the extrapolation of the X-ray spectrum. Four of these sources show periodicities between 3.45 and 11.37 s, indicating slow rotation. The pulsed fractions are small, between 6 and 18 %. The magnetic fields derived from spin down and/or possible proton cyclotron lines are of the order 10$^{13}-10^{14}$ G. We then discuss RX J1856.5-3754 in detail and suggest that the remarkable absence of any line features in its X-ray spectrum is due to effects of strong magnetic fields ($\sim 10^{13}$ G). Assuming blackbody emission to fit the optical and X-ray spectrum we derive a conservative lower limit of the ``apparent'' neutron star radius of 16.5 km $\times$ (d/117 pc). This corresponds to the radius for the ``true'' radius of 14 km for a 1.4 M$_{\odot}$ neutron star, indicating a stiff equation of state at high densities. A comparison of the result with mass-radius relations shows that in this case a quark star or a neutron star with a quark matter core can be ruled out with high confidence.