Atmospheric Structure and Radiation Pattern for Neutron-star Polar Caps Heated by Magnetospheric Return Currents
AffiliationUniv Arizona, Dept Astron
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PublisherIOP PUBLISHING LTD
CitationMichi Bauböck et al 2019 ApJ 872 162
Rights© 2019. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
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AbstractThe Neutron-star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER) is collecting data to measure the radii of neutron stars by observing the pulsed emission from their surfaces. The primary targets are isolated, rotation-powered pulsars, in which the surface polar caps are heated by bombardment from magnetospheric currents of electrons and positrons. We investigate various stopping mechanisms for the beams of particles that bombard the atmosphere and calculate the heat deposition, the atmospheric temperature profiles, and the energy spectra and beaming of the emerging radiation. We find that low-energy particles with gamma similar to 2-10 deposit most of their energy in the upper regions of the atmosphere, at low optical depth, resulting in beaming patterns that are substantially different from those of deep-heated, radiative equilibrium models. Only particles with energies gamma greater than or similar to 50 penetrate to high optical depths and fulfill the conditions necessary for a deep-heating approximation. We discuss the implications of our work for modeling the pulse profiles from rotation-powered pulsars and for the inference of their radii with NICER observations.
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