- Probing the Crust of the Neutron Star in EXO 0748-676
- Astrophysical Journal
- Volume | Issue number
- 791 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy (API)
X-ray observations of quiescent X-ray binaries have the potential to provide insight into the structure and the composition of neutron stars. EXO 0748-676 had been actively accreting for over 24 yr before its outburst ceased in late 2008. Subsequent X-ray monitoring revealed a gradual decay of the quiescent thermal emission that can be attributed to cooling of the accretion-heated neutron star crust. In this work, we report on new Chandra and Swift observations that extend the quiescent monitoring to sime5 yr post-outburst. We find that the neutron star temperature remained at sime117 eV between 2009 and 2011, but had decreased to sime110 eV in 2013. This suggests that the crust has not fully cooled yet, which is supported by the lower temperature (sime95 eV) measured sime4 yr prior to the accretion phase in 1980. Comparing the data to thermal evolution simulations reveals that the apparent lack of cooling between 2009 and 2011 could possibly be a signature of convection driven by phase separation of light and heavy nuclei in the outer layers of the neutron star.
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