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Institut für Astronomie und Astrophysik

Abteilung Astronomie

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Preprint 02/10

Quantum nature of cyclotron harmonics in thermal spectra of neutron stars

V. F. Suleimanov (1,2), G. G. Pavlov (3), K. Werner (1)

(1) Institut für Astronomie und Astrophysik, Sand 1, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany
(2) Dept. of Astronomy, Kazan State University, Kremlevskaya 18, 420008 Kazan, Russia
(3) Pennsylvania State University, 525 Davey Lab., U.S.A

To be published in: ApJ

Abstract. Some isolated neutron stars show harmonically spaced absorption features in their thermal soft X-ray spectra. The interpretation of the features as a cyclotron line and its harmonics has been suggested, but the usual explanation of the harmonics as caused by relativistic effects fails because the relativistic corrections are extremely small in this case. We suggest that the features correspond to the peaks in the energy dependence of the free-free opacity in a quantizing magnetic field. The peaks arise when the transitions to new Landau levels become allowed with increasing the photon energy; they are strongly enhanced by the square-root singularities in the phase-space density of quantum states in the case when the free (non-quantized) motion is effectively one-dimensional. To explore observable properties of the quantum oscillations, we calculate models of hydrogen neutron star atmospheres with B ~ 1010 - 1011 G (i.e., electron cyclotron energy Ec,e~ 0.1 -1 keV) and Teff = 1- 3 MK. Such conditions are thought to be typical for the so-called central compact objects in supernova remnants, such as 1E 1207.4-5209 in PKS 1209-51/52. We show that observable features at the electron cyclotron harmonics form at moderately large values of the quantization parameter, beff = Ec,e/kTeff ~= 0.5 - 20. The equivalent widths of the features can reach 100--200 eV; they grow with increasing beff and are lower for higher harmonics. We note that the harmonically spaced absorption features detected in some "dim isolated neutron stars" could be due to quantum oscillations caused by quantization of proton motion in very strong magnetic fields, B ~ (1 - 3) x 1013 G.

Astrophysics (astro-ph): 1001.0973

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