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On hard X-ray spectra of accreting neutron stars

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Abstract

Formation of the spectra of X-ray pulsars and gamma bursters is investigated. Interpretation of a hard X-ray spectrum of pulsars containing cyclotron lines is feasible on the basis of an isothermal model of a polar spot heated due to accretion to a neutron star. It has been ascertained that in the regions responsible for the formation of continuum radiation and lines the mode polarization is determined by a magnetized vacuum rather than by a plasma. Bearing this in mind, the influence of the magnetic field of a star on the wide wings of the cyclotron line and on its depth is discussed. The part played by the accreting column in the case of strong accretion (≃1019 el cm−3) needed for long sustaining of the high level of X-rays from a neutron star-pulsar is studied. There occur the gaps in spectrum at frequencies close to the electron gyro-frequency and its harmonics due to the screening of the hot spot by the opaque gyro-resonant layers located within the accreting column. These gaps ensure the formation of cyclotron lines in absorption irrespective of the presence of such lines in the X-ray spectrum of a polar hot spot.

The spectra of gamma-bursters recorded by ‘Venus 11’ and ‘Venus 12’ are interpreted in terms of a two-layer model of a polar hot spot. The estimates are given of the distance to some of the bursters, of the emission measure from a high-temperature layer responsible for continuum radiation and of the dispersion measure of a colder layer forming cyclotron lines in absorption. It is noted that the action of an accreting column leads generally to the radiation depression at frequencies below cyclotron lines. By the observed depression for one of the bursters the electron density of near-star accreting plasma during the burst has been directly estimated (≃4×10−14 el cm−3). Possible appearance of ‘false’ cyclotron lines associated with cyclotron scattering in accreting column has been revealed.

The problem of measuring the magnetic fields of neutron stars taking account of the gravitational redshift and the quantum recoil effect in emission and in absorption is discussed. Possibilty for a more precise measurement of the magnetic fields of those bursters whose spectrum contains both a cyclotron and an annihilation lines is noted.

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Zheleznyakov, V.V. On hard X-ray spectra of accreting neutron stars. Astrophys Space Sci 83, 81–103 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00648542

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Keywords

  • Neutron Star
  • Continuum Radiation
  • Gravitational Redshift
  • Wide Wing
  • Annihilation Line