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Title:Proton deceleration near the surface on an accreting neutron star
Author(s):Pakey, Donald Dean
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Lamb, Frederick K.
Department / Program:Physics
Subject(s):proton deceleration
accreting neutron star
Coulomb collisions
Abstract:In binary X-ray sources consisting of a neutron star accreting matter from a companion star, Xradiation is produced by the layer of hot, dense plasma that develops where the matter collides with the neutron star surface. The structure of this layer and the spectrum of the radiation produced there are determined by the way in which infalling protons deposit their energy as a function of the depth. The dominant stopping mechanism is binary Coulomb collisions with electrons in the plasma at the surface of the neutron star, a process that is strongly modified if the neutron star has a strong (B? 1012 gauss) magnetic field. For magnetic fields of this size, the electron motion perpendicular to the field is quantized, collisions are anisotropic, and the protons deposit their energy much deeper than if the magnetic field is weaker. This thesis is a study of proton deceleration by multiple Coulomb collisions with electrons in a hot, strongly magnetized plasma. The evolution of the proton velocity-space distribution function is followed by integrating a Fokker-Planck equation numerically. The Fokker-Planck coefficients are calculated for conditions in which the electrons have a thermal distribution of velocities parallel to the field and remain in their lowest magnetic Landau levels. Nonrelativistic Landau wavefunctions are used for both the electrons and the accreting protons. The protons are assumed to be moving nearly parallel to the magnetic field initially. The proton velocity distribution evolves in one of two ways, depending on the ratio of the proton initial velocity to the thermal velocity of the electrons along the magnetic field. If the proton initial velocity is large, the protons acquire substantial transverse velocities before being significantly slowed and deposit most of their kinetic energy near the end of their paths deep in the plasma at the surface of the star. If the initial proton velocity is small, on the other hand, the protons do not acquire significant transverse velocities before stopping and deposit their energy more uniformly over their paths. This latter evolution more closely resembles stopping in a nonmagnetic plasma. The significance of these results for X-ray emission by accreting neutron stars is discussed and the reasons for the discrepancies among previous calculations is clarified.
Issue Date:1990
Genre:Dissertation / Thesis
Rights Information:1990 Donald Dean Pakey
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-10
Identifier in Online Catalog:3469575

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