Soft X-ray Polarization in Thermal Magnetar Emission

van Adelsberg, Matthew
Perna, Rosalba
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Emission spectra from magnetars in the soft X-ray band likely contain a thermal component emerging directly from the neutron star surface. However, the lack of observed absorption-like features in quiescent spectra makes it difficult to directly constrain physical properties of the atmosphere. We argue that future X-ray polarization measurements represent a promising technique for directly constraining the magnetar magnetic field strength and geometry. We construct models of the observed polarization signal from a finite surface hotspot, using the latest NS atmosphere models for magnetic fields B = 4 x 10^13--5 x 10^14 G. Our calculations are strongly dependent on the NS magnetic field strength and geometry, and are more weakly dependent on the NS equation of state and atmosphere composition. We discuss how the complementary dependencies of phase-resolved spectroscopy and polarimetry might resolve degeneracies that currently hamper the determination of magnetar physical parameters using thermal models.
Comment: 23 pages, 7 figures; MNRAS accepted
Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena