The effect of vacuum polarization and proton cyclotron resonances on photon propagation in strongly magnetized plasmas

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We consider the effects of vacuum polarization and proton cyclotron resonances on the propagation of radiation through a strongly magnetized plasma. We analyze the conditions under which the photons evolve adiabatically through the resonant density and find that the adibaticity condition is satisfied for most photon energies of interest, allowing for a normal-mode treatment of the photon propagation. We then construct radiative equilibrium atmosphere models of strongly magnetized neutron stars that includes these effects, employing a new numerical method that resolves accurately the sharp changes of the absorption and modecoupling cross sections at the resonant densities. We show that the resulting spectra are modified by both resonances and are harder at all field strengths than a blackbody at the effective temperature. We also show that the narrow absorption features introduced by the proton cyclotron resonance have small equivalent widths. We discuss the implications of our results for properties of thermal emission from the surfaces of young neutron stars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)402-409
Number of pages8
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
Publication statusPublished - Jan 20 2003
Externally publishedYes



  • Plasmas
  • Polarization
  • Radiation mechanisms: nonthermal
  • Stars: neutron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science

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